They needed an extra skater – twice – and an extra period, but the Moose Jaw Warriors managed to come from behind to beat the Prince Albert Raiders 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night in P.A.
The win now gives Moose Jaw a 2-1 series lead in the teams’ best-of-seven Western Hockey League quarterfinal playoff series; the Warriors have won back-to-back games against the Raiders, both in overtime.
For 58 minutes of play on Tuesday, the game bore resemblance to a chess match: Each team bested the other back and forth – the Raiders’ heavy forecheck kept the Warriors contained in their zone, while Moose Jaw managed to create offensive chances using its speedy stretch passes into P.A.’s zone.
Through those 58 minutes, the Raiders built up a 4-2 lead. The game’s momentum – and the Raiders’ loud, shouting, feisty fans – was on the home team’s side. Justin Nachbaur had just scored 40 seconds earlier, after he and Regan Nagy fooled defencemen Jett Woo and Kale Clague with a nifty give-and-go into the Warriors’ zone.
Soon after that, Warriors head coach Tim Hunter pulled goalie Brody Willms for an extra skater.
It paid off and cut his team’s deficit by a goal; Josh Brook willed his team to score by single-handedly carrying the puck through the neutral zone, into the Raiders’ zone and behind P.A.’s defencemen for a goal in tight on P.A. netminder Ian Scott.
It made the score 4-3 for P.A. at 18:23 in the third period.
Less than a minute later, again with an extra skater, Warriors captain Brett Howden scored to tie the game at 4-4.
“The third goal, their defenceman made a good play, but probably Scotty (Ian Scott) wanted that one back,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said of the game’s final minutes.
“And on the tie, it was a scramble. We had a chance to get it out; we’re not sure if it was offside or not. Then a scramble in front, and they scored.”
That sent the game to overtime, where the Warriors scored 19 seconds in, after cycling the puck deep in Prince Albert’s zone. Tanner Jeannot was on the Raiders’ goal line and he fed the puck to Brayden Burke, who was in front of Soctt’s crease and screened by P.A. forward Brett Leason.
The 21-year-old, who’s vision looked to be obscured by the taller Raider, received the pass and quickly snapped the puck past Scott with his stick extended through Leasons’ legs.
That won the game for the Warriors. “It feels pretty good,” Burke said with a smile. It was his first overtime game-winning goal in the playoffs. “Obviously jumping over the bench for the last one felt pretty good, but scoring it feels a little better.”
“They obviously had the momentum heading into overtime and finished it early,” Habscheid said. “It’s disappointing.”
Still, the Raiders coach was optimistic about his team’s play throughout the game.
“I think we were a little careful in the first (period). We kind of stuck our toe in, instead of going for it. And then as the game went along, I thought we got better. Then we tied it 2-2, and we started to play a little bit better. Then things started to go.”
The final shot count at game’s end was 45-21 in Moose Jaw’s favour, but less than half of those represented significant scoring opportunities for the visiting team.
“I liked that they were to the outside. They didn’t have a lot of chances … our guys did a good job of keeping the chances down.”
Overall, he said the loss was tough, but, “There’s not much you can tell the guys right now, except to keep their heads up. Tomorrow’s a new day, and we’ll go at it again tomorrow.”
For his part, Warriors head coach Tim Hunter said the game was his team’s best of the series, so far. “I still think we can play better, and they (his team’s players) have the confidence,” he said of the win, adding that they’ll be using that confidence in Game 4 of the series.
The Raiders also had goals from Curtis Miske, Vojtech Budik and Jordy Stallard, while the Warriors had goals from Ryan Peckford and Burke (his first goal of the game).
Game 4 in the series goes Wednesday at 7 p.m. at P.A.’s Art Hauser Centre.