HOUSTON — The Utah Grizzlies (24-38-6-5) battled back four times to erase a one-goal deficit gaining a 5-5 tie in the Toyota Center against the Houston Aeros Tuesday night. With the point, Utah pulls to within one of the idle Cincinnati Mighty Ducks for the fifth and final Western Division playoff spot.
Houston took the lead less than five minutes into the game when Jason Beckett took a pass from Dan Cavanaugh and beat Jason Bacashihua on the near side for his third goal of the season (second in nine games versus Utah). The Grizzlies then took advantage of three power play opportunities in the first period by capitalizing twice once on a five-on-three with a slap shot by Nick Naumenko that beat Houston goaltender Johan Holmqvist. For Naumenko it was his fifth goal of the season and it extended his point streak to a season-long five games. Utah, still on the power play, would get a fortunate bounce just over a minute later when Mathias Tjarnqvist threw a pass into the far corner but before the puck arrived it hit Michael Schutte's leg redirecting the puck past Holmqvist giving Utah a 2-1 lead after one period of play. The Grizzlies outshot the Aeros 17-7 in the period (the most first period shots this season for the Grizzlies) and finished 2 for 3 on the power play.
Houston came out blazing in the second period scoring two quick goals. The first came from Travis Roche and the second on the power play when Kyle Wanvig redirected a Roche shot past Bacashihua for his 23rd goal of the season. Utah would answer the bell 39 seconds later when Justin Cox banged home the rebound off a Naumenko shot for his 12th goal of the season tying the score for the third time at 3-3. Late in the period, Utah would have a breakdown in their own zone that led to a blast from Jordan Krestanovick for his fifth goal of the season regaining the lead for the third time for Houston. Utah led on the shot board 31-21 after two period but Holmqvist made 28 saves.
Utah would quickly tie the game in the third period when Zenon Konopka scored his sixth goal of the season off a rebound from a Barrett Heisten shot tying the game at four goals apiece. Houston would regain the lead about five minutes later when Jeff Hoggan scored his 18th goal of the season beting Bacashihua up high after a Christoph Brandner shot. The Grizzlies would battle back for the fourth time to tie the game when Mike Siklenka banked a shot off the back of Holmqvist for his second goal of the season and it would serve as the game tying goal for Utah.
In overtime, Bacashihua faced eight shots including a point blank blast from Roche in the final minute of the extra session that Bacashihua made a stunning glove save.
Utah outshot the Aeros 47-41 in the game and earned a point passing San Antonio in the standings who lost to Milwaukee 5-1 in the SBC Center.
Utah will host Grand Rapids for a pair of games this weekend with face-off set for Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m.