Looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Florida Everblades hit the ice Wednesday night determined and desperate, but neither of those factors were enough as a four-goal third period by the South Carolina Stingrays all but doomed the Everblades' hopes of extending their playoff appearances to 16 straight years, losing 6-5 in a shootout at Germain Arena.
"We had full control of the game, a 3-1 lead, and we just took too many stupid penalties. That's what lost us the game," said Blades coach Greg Poss.
The game started the way the Everblades had hoped.
Brandon MacLean got the scoring started with his 20th goal of the year giving Florida the early 1-0 lead just 8:19 into the first period. The Stingrays tied it up nine minutes later with a short-handed goal against starting net minder Mac Carruth (29 saves), but the Blades answered less than a minute later when Aaron Bogosian scored his fifth goal of the year while on the power play giving the Blades a 2-1 lead heading into intermission.
That score held until the opening moments of the third period, which saw the Blades start with four minutes left in a power play.
The Blades converted on the opportunity thanks to Mathieu Roy's first goal of the night, giving the Blades a commanding 3-1 lead.
Mere minutes after the score, a major penalty was assessed against Florida, giving the Stingrays five minutes with an extra man. The Stingrays scored twice with the extra man, and add a third goal seconds after the penalty expired, to take a 4-3 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
With just under three minutes left in regulation, the Stingrays made it 5-3, seemingly putting the Blades away and ending their playoff hopes early, but the Blades wouldn't go quietly into the night. Coach Poss took the risk of pulling Carruth with two minutes left to play, and the gamble paid off.
First, Aaron Bloodoff, and then Roy with his second goal of the night, scored for the Everblades to force overtime. The Blades eventually dropped the contest in the shootout, which greatly diminishes their hopes of stretching their playoff appearance streak to 16 years.
"We are two points behind Fort Wayne now," said Poss. "We still have a good chance with five games left (at home)."
"It's something we need to think and talk about," said the team's captain Mathieu Roy. "But right now, I can't think or talk about that. Right now we just need to focus on working on the next game."
The Everblades (33-34) and the Stingrays skate again at Germain Arena for the final two times this season Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.