05/07/2009 - Joe Shetrom, South Carolina Stingrays
North Charleston, SC – After trailing 3-0 half way through the second period, the South Carolina Stingrays scored four unanswered goals including the game winner in the final minute of regulation to defeat the Florida Everblades 4-3 and take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series.
"The guys came out a little flat in today's game and fell behind quickly," said Assistant Coach Cail MacLean. "But they never gave up and just continued to chip away."
The Rays did not get out to the start they were hoping for as Florida got two quick goals in the first 10 minutes of play to take a 2-0 lead going into the second period. The first goal was credited to Ernie Hartlieb, his second of the playoffs, after his shot hit off the side of the net and popped over the pad of Jonathan Boutin at 5:37. At 9:38, Peter Metcalf took advantage of a two-on-one and fired a shot up and over Boutin to make the score 2-0.
Though the Rays took control of the second period, a lapse in defense led to another Florida goal. This time it was league MVP Kevin Baker wrapping in a shot from behind the net to give the 'Blades a 3-0 lead at 10:11 of the period. The Stingrays, in desperate need of a spark, found one on a Johann Kroll shot that was tipped in by Matt Scherer. The goal, at 12:22, was Scherer's team leading sixth of the season with the lone assist going to Kroll. Just over two minutes later, the Rays cut the deficit down to one. Sasha Pokulok and Michael Dubuc played catch with the puck all the way into the zone until Dubuc, from the near side post, roofed a shot up and over goalie David Leggio. The goal was Dubuc's first of the playoffs, with the lone assists going to Pokulok at 14:23.
The Rays continued to dictate play in the third period, but with four minutes left to go, they were still down by a goal. It wasn't until the 16:46 mark the Keith Johnson brought the puck from the boards to the goal line and fired a shot a Leggio. Leggio turned the initial bid aside, but Maxime Lacroix was there to grab the rebound and slip it under the pads of Leggio to tie the game up at three. The goal was Lacroix's fourth of the playoffs and was assisted by Johnson and Nikita Kashirsky. The Rays caught a break in the final minute of play as Florida was called for too many men on the ice at 19:16 giving the Rays their fifth power play of the night. Just eight seconds into the power play, Kashirsky worked the puck to the slot and, while falling down, flipped a shot past the stick side of Leggio to give the Rays with lead with just :36 seconds left to go in the game. In the final seconds the 'Blades pulled their goalie in favor of the extra attacker, but they were unable to pot the equalizer and the Rays walked away with a 4-3 win.
The winning goaltender was Boutin who stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced. The losing goaltender was Leggio who stopped 20 of the 24 shots he faced. The Rays went 1-5 on the power play and killed off all three short handed situations they faced.
The Rays will be back in action on Tuesday night from Germain Arena in Estero, FL, as they look to close out the Florida Everblades on the road and punch their ticket to their second consecutive conference finals against the Cincinnati Cyclones. Game time will be at 7:30. You can catch all the action by tuning in to Sports Radio 1450 with the Benitos Pre-game show beginning at 7:15. Don't forget that you can watch the game at Center pointe Bar and Grill behind the Tanger Outlets for both games.