After a penalty filled game three that saw the Grizzlies play pretty well, but surrender yet another third period lead, Utah looked to correct the issue.
Cam Reid returned to the lineup, while Phil Pietroniro was placed on reserve earlier in the day, and Marc-André Lévesque drew back into the line-up in his stead. Kevin Boyle once again manned the net, and the Grizzlies’ electric third line of C.J. Eick, Jon Puskar, and Austen Brassard took the opening face off.
Through the first five minutes, both teams picked up two shots, and neither appeared to hold the advantage.
Puskar took a cross-checking penalty with just about ten minutes to go, but between a desperation play by Haar, and some excellent penalty killing, including short-handed chances by Brassard, Eick, and Erik Higby, the Grizzlies killed off the minor.
With 4:36 to go in the first, the Grizzlies went flying up the ice, and in his first game back, Cam Reid made it 1-0 from Brassard and Colin Martin.
Gabriel Verpaelst laid a quartet of thunderous hits throughout the first, to the delight of the crowd, and Eick’s speed got him a one-on-one chance with Gill with 2:02 left to go that he unfortunately was unable to bury.
After 20 the shots favored Allen 15-8, but Utah held the 1-0 lead.
The Grizzlies generated a few good looking chances to start the second, and at 3:58 Daly drew a cross-checking penalty. Utah maintained excellent possession, and puck movement throughout, but despite some scramble-y moments from Gill, they were unable to capitalize.
Ralph Cuddemi also had the chance of a one-on-one with Gill, and also was unable to cash in, and the Americans looked increasingly dangerous in the offensive zone.
Utah had the chance to grab back the momentum when Alex Krushelnyski took a hooking call at 16:47, but to no avail, and at the end of two periods, the score remained 1-0 for the Grizzlies, with Allen holding a 25-17 edge in shots.
After getting only one penalty in forty minutes, the third period did not get off to a very good start as the first shot on net led to a scrum around Boyle. Verpaelst and Josh Brittain were sent to cool their tempers just six seconds into the frame.
To make matters worse, Erik Bradford took a high-sticking penalty less than a minute later to put Utah on the wrong side of a 4-on-3 for 1:30. Boyle and penalty killers were able to fight off the 4-on-3, only for Allen to score with 11 seconds left on the Bradford call.
With 15:13 to go, Brassard was sent to the box on a questionable hooking call, and Allen struck on the power play once again, and the wheels came well and truly off the bus.
Allen added goals at 9:01 and 12:57 on a 2-on-1, and with 4:10 to go in the period, Boyle was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. Allen missed the empty net three times, but with 1:08 remaining, Krushelnyski scored his first goal of the series into the empty cage.
When the buzzer finally sounded, Utah found themselves down 5-1, and on the brink of elimination, out shot 35-30, and out scored 11-0 in the third periods this series.
Reid’s lone Utah goal, and team leading five shots on net earned him third star of the game.
“I don’t have an explanation for it,” Coach Branham said after the game of the rapid deterioration of discipline in the third. “That’s all we talked about in between periods, buying in, and staying disciplined, and then we decide to get tough after a whistle. And then you take two penalties 200 feet from your net. The second one was a horrible call, the hook on Brassard was [an] absolutely ludicrous call, but the high-stick on Bradford, 100% it’s a high-stick. Once again, it’s discipline.
You’ve got to go through it to really understand, so for those guys that have never been deep in playoffs, or never won a championship, they don’t truly understand, and if they don’t listen to what you’re saying, they don’t get it. Taking punches to the head, just that disciplined stuff. You’ve got to play between the whistles, and if you don’t, you roll the dice. We could have had four goals going into the third period, and it wouldn’t have mattered, but that’s not the game. It was 1-0, you’ve gotta be disciplined, and when you go on your own page, bad things happen.”
When asked about whether it has been frustrating to surrender three third period leads, he replied, “Yeah. But at the same token, the discipline is what’s frustrating. It’s not the fact that we’ve had the lead, it’s why you’re losing those leads, it’s through lack of discipline. And you don’t learn from it in game one, game two I thought the referees did a really good job, and then here, we kind of had to battle the referees a little in that period, you can’t give them a reason to call a penalty. And unfortunately, it’s been the same thing in every third period. Discipline. It’s gotta be clear to the guys, and that’s on me for putting the wrong guys in the lineup.”
Saturday’s game is an elimination game, but as Coach was quick to point out, “Anything is possible. By no means are we down and out. If you learn from your mistakes, you’re going to win. Simple as that. I told the boys from the beginning, this series is about us. We’ve had a lead going into every third period. When you’re disciplined, you win. When you’re not, you lose. It’s not that hard to take a punch to the head.”
Image courtesy of Tim Broussard/Jess Fleming