The Utah Grizzlies had more than a 3-2 deficit to overcome in the third period of Game 4 against Las Vegas. They also faced what has become the IHL's version of "Mission Impossible" - defeating the Thunder when they lead after two periods.
"Never remind a goalkeeper he's working a shutout and never remind a pitcher he has a no-hitter going," Las Vegas coach Chris McSorley mused when told his squad is 54-0-2 in such situations this season.Saturday's 5-3 victory over Utah in the Delta Center not only evened the Western Conference final series at 2-all, it also extended Las Vegas' postseason mark to 8-0 when ahead entering the final 20 minutes.
Time to pack the pucks and store the sticks? Not so fast, says Utah coach Butch Goring.
"Statistically every team that leads going into the third period usually wins," he said. "I think it's a strange quirk. In hockey, when you lead after two periods you are almost guaranteed to win - but remember, I said almost."
Speaking of which, the Grizzlies made things interesting down the stretch. After narrowing a 3-1 gap with a goal late in the second period, Utah managed to pull even in the final frame when Yan Kaminsky scored with 18:25 remaining.
Hopes of snapping Vegas' streak, however, soon disappeared. Former Salt Lake Golden Eagle center Joe Day reclaimed the lead for the Thunder 44 seconds later before teammate Grigori Panteleyev added an insurance shot.
"We're an extremely mobile team," said McSorley. "Our mobility allows us an easy transition from offense to defense."
After surrendering the game-tying blast in the third period, Las Vegas allowed Utah just one more shot-on-goal in the period. Meanwhile, the Thunder got 12 looks at the net. Known for its league-leading offense, Las Vegas meshed a solid defensive effort into the mix when they needed it most.
"They were exceptional," said McSorley. "Anytime you get the puck you are in great defensive posture."