Get down a goal to the Indianapolis Ice, it's like being three goals behind against anybody else. They're that good at protecting a lead.
But what's this?Monday night in the Salt Palace, the Golden Eagles, not famous for their comeback ability, came back not once but three times on the Ice for a 5-4 overtime victory.
Stephane Matteau did the dirty work along the boards, and Tim Sweeney got the game-winning goal rushing the net 2:17 into the extra period.
"It was a good goal that won it," said Ice Coach Darryl Sutter.
That evened the best-of-seven Turner Cup semifinal series at 1-1 with the next three games in Indianapolis starting Wednesday.
"We had to win this game tonight. No ifs, ands or buts about it," said Eagle Coach Bob Francis, who stressed going "for the jugular" in the first few minutes of overtime. "Overtimes are usually decided in the first five minutes," he said.
"I thought they outplayed us," said Sutter, citing intensity and the Eagles' willingness to cruise up the slot - "something they did that we didn't do," he said.
Sutter pointed to two other factors. One was Eagle center Marc Bureau. Sutter said Bureau outplayed all of his centers all night. "Bureau won the battles, won the faceoffs. His line (with Sweeney and Matteau) was pretty dominant," Sutter said, even though Bureau was scoreless for a second straight game.
"I'm taking all the important faceoffs in our zone. I have to win them all," shrugged Bureau. "Last game they beat me, so I worked on it."
Sutter's other observation was that the Ice's Mike Rucinski line "was outplayed terribly" by any line it went up against. That's the line of Sean Williams and ex-Eagles Rucinski and Jim Johannson. They were on the ice while three even-strength Eagle goals were scored.
Much of the Eagle game plan centered around their forwards going fast and wide with the puck while those without the puck dived to the net.
The game-winner was the perfect example, though the play didn't turn out exactly like Matteau envisioned it as he churned his legs with Brian Glynn's pass. Matteau said he was determined to beat the defense at the blue line with his speed, and Bureau's pick on two of them helped. Matteau tipped the puck past Cam Russell at the left point.
He'd planned to just kiss it off the boards, recover it and head for the net. "I didn't want to put it in the corner," he said, though that's what happened. "I don't know what I did," he said, but he remembered careening to the corner to fire a pass to Sweeney.
"I didn't think he saw me," said Sweeney, who shot off the pass without thinking about where he'd put it.
The play was perhaps all the more impressive because it capped an exceptional, speedy game for Matteau, who spent the time he was on the bench throwing up because of a stomach disorder. He missed a shift or two because he was indisposed.
Rookie defenseman-turned-reluctant-forward Darryl Olsen also gave a banner performance with two goals and an assist and two spectacular plays.
He scored his first goal leaning on his elbows with Johannson on top of him to give the Eagles their first comeback of the night. That tied the game 1-1. Jari Torkki had put a Steve Guenette giveaway into the net at :59, and Olsen tallied at 1:18.
Olsen also created such a stir in the third period with an up-ice rush that two defenders converged on him at the blue line. One Iceman came at Olsen with "his legs open and his stick open, and I put the puck between his legs," Olsen said. The puck hit the defender's skate and skidded to Rich Chernomaz on right wing. He hit Martin Simard coming up the slot from the left wing for the Eagles' third comeback goal. Indianapolis had scored two straight power-play goals to go up 4-3, but Simard's score necessitated the overtime.
"He created a lot of offense," Francis said of Olsen, adding that the recent addition of puckhandling defenseman Jim Leavins allowed him to move Olsen to the forward line. Olsen doesn't like the move, despite having had three two-goal games from the wing position.
Bryan Deasley had the other Eagle goal, 2:11 into the second period. A Brian Noonan goal at 9:31 of the first put Indy up 2-1, but Deasley scored from directly in front of Darren Pang's net. Olsen gave the Eagles their only lead of the night until the game-winner when his tip of a Leavins shot made it 3-2 at 7:21 of the second. That lasted until the Eagles got into penalty trouble to end the second period and start the third, Williams and Mike Eagles making it 4-3 for Indy.