Following a disheartening Game 4 loss for the Syracuse Crunch where they trailed 3-0, rallied back within a goal, dominated the third period but couldn't break through Grand Rapids' force field around goalie Jared Coreau for the tying score, Crunch leading scorer Cory Conacher said he hoped his team could carry over the momentum from the final 20 minutes into the next day's Game 5.
It took just one shift , the first, to prove that it would.
Syracuse scored five goals in the first period less than 24 hours after falling into a 3-1 hole in the series to win Game 5 of the best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals and force a Game 6 back in Grand Rapids on Tuesday.
The tone was set as soon as the puck dropped for the opening face-off.
And the Crunch were relentless in their pursuit to continue the series.
Gabriel Dumont won the opening draw and sent the puck deep into the offensive zone. His linemates Michael Bournival and Kevin Lynch joined him as the trio raced down to forecheck and win the puck back, knocking over anything in their path.
Dumont hopped on the puck behind the net and fed Lynch in front, who netted his third goal of the playoffs with a one-timer from in close.
Just 17 seconds into the game, the score was already 1-0 Syracuse.
"Obviously the goal was a culmination of all that, but that first 17 seconds was unbelievable," said Crunch goaltender Mike McKenna, who made 36-of-37 saves, including several spectacular stops in the opening period to keep the Griffins off the board early. "They got the puck deep. We had four or five hits. They looked like the Hanson Brothers and then it's in the net. What that does for your bench and to see Kevin's raw emotion after scoring that goal, it's huge, for sure."
But the Crunch weren't finished.
Not by a long shot.
A couple minutes later, Mathieu Brodeur scored his first goal of the postseason with a shot from the top of the left circle that eluded Coreau.
Shaken but not sunk, Grand Rapids regrouped. The Griffins settled into the game as the opening period neared the midpoint and started to possess the puck in the offensive zone, but that's when McKenna was at his best, confidently snagging shots out of the air and blocking others away to keep the two-goal lead intact.
Then, 14 minutes into the game, Byron Froese struck with the dagger, jamming a loose puck between Coreau and the post and just barely over the goal line.
That score extinguished what little life Grand Rapids had left.
"I think we were so good on the forecheck. We possessed the puck. We did everything that our team does when we're firing on all cylinders," McKenna said of the opening period. "We had the puck deep in their zone. We were hitting. It just seemed like tonight we controlled the pace of play, and that's the key to our success."
The Crunch, sensing the end at hand, continued to push for more. Syracuse was awarded its first power play with 3:42 remaining in the period, and a minute into the man-advantage, Cory Conacher blistered a one-timer from the right dot that hit the back of the net before Coreau could slide over to block it, Conacher establishing a new record for points in a single postseason (27) in the process.
And yet, there was still time left in the period. On an odd-man rush with less than a minute before the break, Ben Thomas charged toward the net and redirected Yanni Gourde's centering feed past Coreau, chasing the beleaguered goalie from the game.
"We came out really strong tonight," Gourde said. "It was a huge team effort. Everybody played well. It felt great to get that W and it felt great to be having such a good first period."
One got a sense the Crunch could have continued playing the first period all night without a break if it were allowed. They were that confident and the Griffins were that overwhelmed in the period.
The final 40 minutes were just an exercise in trying not to get anybody hurt. The Crunch could have begun booking their return trip to Grand Rapids during the second period.
"I think they thought it was going to be a little easier tonight, and that's exactly what didn't happen," Lynch said. "It's going to be a dogfight for Game 6 and Game 7, so we've got to be ready."
Syracuse will have to win two more in Grand Rapids, where the Griffins have never lost this postseason, to hoist the Calder Cup
But after Saturday's first period blitzkrieg, that proposition no longer feels quite as daunting.
Said McKenna: "If we play like that tonight, I think we're in good shape."