Rockford IceHogs goaltender Corey Crawford made a point-blank save on Joey Moztko of the Chicago Wolves at 16:35 in the first period and never looked back as the IceHogs won 5-1 at the Allstate Arena Friday night.
The IceHogs' first win this season at Allstate Arena could not have come at at better time as they take a 3-2 West Division Finals series lead back to Rockford for Game 6.
"Finally we're able to play our game in this building. Before, something about it, we weren't able to play the game that we could and tonight the guys came through," Crawford said.
After a scoreless first, Jack Skille got the IceHogs on the board with his second goal of the playoffs at 2:08. Wolves goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made the first and second saves but was tied up by his own defenseman. A clearing attempt found Skille's stick and he put it home.
"We seem to find when we get that first one we get a lot of confidence," Rockford coach Mike Haviland said.
Going into the game, both the Wolves and the IceHogs were 5-0 in the postseason while scoring first and Rockford remained undefeated when scoring the first goal of the game.
With Boris Valabik of the Wolves in the box for roughing and the IceHogs' Niklas Hjalmarsson serving time for interference, Colin Fraser chased down Arturs Kulda, followed him behind the Wolves net, and put in the wrap around at 5:45 of the second to give the IceHogs a 2-0 lead.
With Kris Versteeg in the box for hooking, Pavelec was able to stop the initial slap shot by Martin St. Pierre but left the goal wide open for Troy Brouwer to put home the rebound at 9:11 of the second period. The short handed goal was the IceHogs' third of the playoffs and the first by Brouwer.
Jason Krog put the Wolves on the board as he put the puck past Crawford at 18:27 to put a dent in the IceHogs' lead and make the game 3-1 after two. The goal was his first of the postseason but seventh point against the IceHogs in five games.
The IceHogs would take back the three-goal lead when Adam Berti notched his first goal of the postseason at 5:35 of the third period. Brouwer added his second goal of the game at 12:45 for his second two-goal game in as many contests. "The first couple games of the playoffs I was fighting the puck a little bit; shooting a lot, but nothing was going in for me. Now I guess the pucks have eyes and they're going in for me right now," Brouwer said.
Pavelec was pulled and replaced by Robert Gherson after the goal by Brouwer.
Shortly after the goal by Brouwer, Gavin Morgan was tied up by Kevin Doell before Andre Deveaux jumped on Morgan. A skirmish spilled out into the hallway and when all was said and done Morgan and Deveaux were both handed roughing minors and fighting majors; Morgan had a cross checking penalty tacked on while Deveaux was given a misconduct. IceHog Michael Blunden was given a fighting major and a game misconduct, as was the Wolves' Kevin Doell. By that point the game it was already 5-1 IceHogs.
A total of 100 penalty minutes were handed out. The IceHogs were 1-for-6 on the power play while the Wolves were 0-for-6.
Petri Kontiola saw his seven-game point streak snapped when he was kept off the score sheet.
"You still have to play 60 minutes. We didn't win anything," Haviland said, echoing his same sentiment as after Game 4. "The toughest game is always to close a team out and we can't get too high. We can't assume that everything's going to be easy because it's certainly not."
Game 6 is Sunday at 4:05 p.m. in Rockford; the IceHogs look to close out the series.