BAD BOUNCES DOWN T-BIRDS IN OT VS. LAVALJan 21, 2019
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds (19-14-6-4) received multiple bad bounces on Monday night and settled for one point in a 4-3 overtime loss as the hands of the Laval Rocket (19-17-3-4) at the MassMutual Center.
The power plays took control of the game early on both sides of ice, beginning with Springfield's opening tally at 4:01 of the period. After Antoine Waked was whistled for an interference penalty, the Thunderbirds' top-ranked power play went right to work, and making his home ice debut as a Thunderbird, Tomas Jurco curled and unleashed a perfect wrist shot over the right arm of Laval goaltender Michael McNiven to make it 1-0 Thunderbirds.
The Rocket, though, would have a reply less than three minutes later, ending the Thunderbirds' 18-for-18 penalty killing stretch in the process. Wasting little time after getting on the man advantage, young defenseman Cale Fleury found a shooting lane from the right circle and lifted a wrist shot over the glove of Sam Montembeault to tie the score, 1-1, at 6:41.
From there, McNiven and Montembeault locked down the nets, but the action in front of them heated up. Springfield would be guilty of a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties late in the period, including one to captain Paul Thompson which gave the Rocket more than three minutes of power play time to start the second period.
The Thunderbirds made sure their captain would not have to pay for his penalty time as the second period began, as Bobby Farnham drew an interference penalty to bring Laval's three-minute power play to an early end.
Springfield's power play would not be done doing its damage, drawing a 5-on-3 advantage. At 7:57 of the period, Thompson stationed himself along the left post and tapped home a Jurco pass, which deflected off a Rocket stick before angling toward the goal line. Jurco's set-up and second point of the night made it 2-1 for the home team.
Montembeault kept his cool to keep the Rocket at bay until the final moments of the period. With just 2:46 left in the middle frame, Nikita Jevpalovs received a fortunate bounce and a goal when his centering feed from the right wing corner deflected off a Thunderbirds stick and in behind Montembeault at 17:14, tying the game, 2-2, heading into the final period.
The Rocket power play got another chance just 20 seconds into the third period and found instant success when Byron Froese deflected a point shot in behind Montembeault to give Laval its first lead, 3-2, at the 26-second mark of the final period.
It would take the Thunderbirds until the final six minutes of the final period to finally crack through McNiven for a third time and tie the score. They did so with 5:08 to go when Harry Zolnierczyk fired a one-timer from the top of the left circle, which Hunt deflected between McNiven's legs to make it a 3-3 game.
For the 12th time already in 2018-19, extra time was needed to determine an outcome. After the teams and goaltenders traded shots and saves the Rocket came away victorious when a puck fortuitously bounced off a referee on a Springfield pass attempt, allowing Xavier Ouellet to take the loose puck and wrap it around the net, banking it off Montembeault and into the net to bring the game to an end at 4:16 of the extra period.
Monday night marked the final home game for Springfield until after the Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield, which kicks off on Sunday, Jan. 27 with the AHL All-Star Skills Competition at 7:00 p.m. ET. Limited tickets remain for the two-day event and can be purchased online at www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com/AllStar or by calling (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
Following Monday night's action, the Thunderbirds return to Hartford to tangle with the Wolf Pack once again. The puck will drop at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday night from the XL Center.