To Rich Chernomaz, who had the first and last goals Saturday night, it was because the Eagles realized they had to turn it up a couple notches against a better team than they've been seeing.
To Rick Hayward and Peter Lappin, who had the third and fourth goals, being home at last had something to do with it, and so did making fewer mistakes.To goalie Steve Guenette, it was a tougher defense around him and some soul searching on his own part.
There were a lot of reasons, and the end result was that the Eagles bounced back from their 8-1 loss at Muskegon Friday for a 5-2 win over the same Lumberjacks Saturday night in the Salt Palace. It was the Eagles' first home game in more than two weeks and only their fifth home game since April 2.
The earlier playoff series, against Denver and Milwaukee, may have mislead the Eagles, said Chernomaz. "It was almost like we were fooling ourselves," he said. Neither Denver nor Milwaukee had the Eagles' size or speed; Denver fell in four games, Milwaukee in five. The Eagles dominated without playing their best.
Then comes Muskegon. "We're playing a team that has as much talent, if not more, than we do," says Eagle Coach Paul Baxter.
"Muskegon's such a great team," said Chernomaz, "talent-wise and experience-wise, they really stick it to you, especially at home. After the game Friday, we talked about focusing ourselves, and the guys, when they came to the rink at 5 o'clock, knew what they had to do.
"You have to answer the bell," Chernomaz said.
Guenette said the Eagles were tougher Saturday. "We punished them enough that they only gave us their B material," he said, noting that every time a 'Jack went into the corners or near the net, he was hit. "It will take its toll over the series," Guenette said.
The Eagles made mistakes in Muskegon that they didn't make in Salt Lake, too, said Guenette. So did he.
"Steve would be the first to admit he wasn't enthralled with his game Friday night," said Baxter.
Guenette and Baxter talked following Friday's game, and Guenette took a soul-searching walk, thinking about what Baxter had told him - to relax and have fun playing and that he had nothing to prove to the Calgary Flames.
Guenette had talked about not letting playing his old team bother him, but it probably did the first two games. "I put too much pressure on myself, especially with Espo there," he said. He was referring to Pittsburgh Penguins' general manager Tony Esposito, the man who traded him for a sixth-round draft choice to the Calgary organization in January.
Chernomaz and Jim Leavins gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead, Dave McIlwain cut it to one for Muskegon, but Hayward came back with a goal at 7:04 of the second for a 3-1 lead. Todd Charlesworth scored on a power play for the Lumberjacks for a 3-2 total, but Lappin's goal 4:49 later made the lead two again, and midway through the third, Chernomaz goaled again to put it out of reach.
Muskegon Coach B.J. MacDonald called Lappin's goal the crusher. "When we scored to make it 3-2, I thought momentum was going our way," he said.
"We came right back and got that fourth one," said Hayward, a converted defenseman who returned to a line with Lappin and Jim Johannson that had been successful in the Denver series. Hayward made the setup when he held the puck and drew the defense so Lappin could walk in untouched.
Why was it easier Saturday? "Why did it rain yesterday?" Lappin said. It's hard to tell. "You get down 8-1, you're trying too hard.
"We didn't make very many defensive mistakes, and we were capitalizing on our opportunities," he added.
And they were home. "You've got to feel more comfortable at home," Lappin said, warning, "but you can't be so comfortable you don't play well on the road."
The Eagles, if they are to win a third straight Turner Cup, will have to win at least one more road game.
Chernomaz and Hayward noted that the Eagle defenders made the easy play Saturday, too, bouncing the puck off the glass and out of trouble instead of making passes that were intercepted like Friday.
"I think we were more creative offensively," observed Baxter, "and in the neutral zone we made some very wise decisions.
"By the same token," he said, "I know we can be better in some areas in our end." Muskegon did get some easy opportunities, but Guenette steered them away, or the Lumberjacks didn't get good wood on the puck.
MacDonald had a ready-made excuse that he wouldn't use - his team was playing without league MVP and scoring champion Dave Michayluk, out with nearly 30 stitches in an arm as the result of a collision Friday with Marc Bureau; without tough guy Mitch Wilson, out with a shoulder that popped out of place Friday; and without high-scoring Brad Aitken, who has strep throat.
"We had four new faces, including the goaltender (Bruce Racine, making his first playoff start against the Eagles), but the players have been playing all year, and we're confident when we put anyone in the lineup," MacDonald said.
Game 4 of the series is Wednesday night in the Salt Palace.