The St. John's IceCaps have been looking for a change in the pattern of their homestands.
It happened Saturday, but not quite in the way they wanted.
Goalie Niklas Svedberg stopped all five shots he faced in the shootout and rookie Ryan Spooner scored the only goal of the post-overtime tiebreaker as the visiting Providence Bruins beat the IceCaps 3-2 at Mile One Centre.
It marked the first time this season the IceCaps (8-9-1) have lost the opening game of the two-game series that make up their home schedule. On five previous occasions this season, St. John's had won the first game, only to lose the rematch.
That latter fact is one the IceCaps will attempt to change Sunday evening when the teams meet again at Mile One (6 p.m. start).
Svedberg finished the night with 31 saves. At the other end, Eddie Pasquale was busier, facing 40 shots in total and bailing his team out on a number of occasions. But the first goal of the game — by Providence's Alden Hirschfeld — was one Pasquale will lament, both for its timing and for its quality. It came with five seconds left in the second period on a harmless-looking shot that didn't look like it had enough energy to make its way through a snowy end-of-the-period ice surface, but still managed to squeeze through Pasquale's pads and into the net.
While a Bruins teammate retrieved the puck (it was Hirschfeld's first AHL tally), Pasquale was left to look to the rafters.
To their credit, the IceCaps came out strongly to start the third, getting Zach Redmond's team-leading fifth goal of the game in the opening minute of the frame. It marked the first time St. John's scored on Svedberg in more than five periods — the first-year netminder from Sweden had shut out St. John's 3-0 in Providence on Nov. 4
But even as the full house at Mile One celebrated, the Bruins (7-7-1) regained the lead. Just 27 seconds after Redmond's marker, Spooner was sent in alone and beat Pasquale with a move on the backhand (one which, for the most part, he would successfully replicate in the shootout).
The IceCaps tied it with 3:25 remaining in regulation as, with the home side on a power play, team captain Jason Jaffray swept in a shot for his second goal of the season.
Overtime, which saw each team register two shots, solved nothing, but did provide a rare look at three-on-three hockey. That happened when Alex Burmistrov of St. John's was whistled for boarding on the P-Bruins' Christian Hanson, but the latter was also sent off for diving (unsportsmanlike conduct).
Spooner scored on the Bruins' first attempt of the shootout and Svedberg helped make it stand with stops on Burmistrov, Carl Klingberg, Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell.
Jaffray had the home side's final attempt and he went with a move that had been successful in a shootout win over the Albany Devils earlier this month, but while he had Svedberg sprawling, his tough-angle shot went over the net.
Forwards Jason King, who hasn't played since Nov. 4 and Patrice Cormier, who has dressed for only three games this season, remained out. They were joined by a couple of players who have been among the IceCaps' better performers of late: centre Eric O'Dell and winger Ray Sawada. O'Dell was injured during Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs and wasn't available Wednesday, when Hamilton prevailed 2-1. Sawada was hurt on Wednesday, and to fill his spot, St. John's brought Travis Ramsey into the lineup, meaning seven defenceman were dressed ... The other scratches for St. John's were forwards Kevin Clark and Derek Whitmore and defenceman Ben Chiarot ... The Providence roster features no fewer than five players, whose fathers were NHLers. They are Chris Bourque (Ray), Hanson (Dave), Lane MacDermid (Paul), Max Sauve (Jean-Francois) and Justin Courtnall (Geoff). Sauve is injured and was a scratch for the Bruins tonight, as were veterans Trent Whitfield and Garnet Exelby and rookies Jared Knight and Courtnall ... Among those taking in the series are Winnipeg Jet general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, AHL president Dave Andrews and former St. John's Maple Leafs coach Tom Watt, now a pro scout for Toronto ... National anthem duties Saturday were split between two stars of the Republic of Doyle, with Linda Boyd singing the Star Spangled Banner and Krystin Pellerin following up with O Canada ...