WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - Clinging to life in the American Hockey League playoffs, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins survived to fight another day thanks to Simon Despres' first goal of the post-season.
The defenceman backhanded in his own rebound at 12:08 of the second overtime Tuesday night to keep the Penguins alive with a 3-2 victory over the St. John's IceCaps.
Despres worked his way into the left circle for a wrist shot and got to the rebound while moving through the slot.
"This was very big because we were on the brink of elimination," Despres said. "It's the biggest goal of my career."
St. John's still leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2 heading into Game 6 at home Friday.
"At the end of the day, we came here and won two of three in their building," St. John's coach Keith McCambridge said. "Now, we have to win one of two in our building."
It was the third straight overtime game of the series, all coming in Wilkes-Barre.
"These are two very good teams that match up very well and are trying to do their best to capitalize on chances," McCambridge said.
Brad Thiessen made 26 saves for the win while playing most of the game in goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Eddie Pasquale made 42 saves for St. John's
The teams traded goals in the first four minutes of the third period. Defencemen Alex Grant of the Penguins and Paul Postma of the IceCaps each scored their first goal of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Grant moved into the slot, took a pass from Jason Williams and placed a wrist shot under the crossbar at 2:18 for a 2-1 Penguins lead.
Postma tied the game on the power play at 4:00. He scored on a 40-foot slap shot through a screen.
Thiessen left the game with 6:51 left in regulation and returned with 2:26 remaining after he suffered a cut above his right eye that needed stitches.
"It was one of the more eventful nights I???ve had in a while," Thiessen said.
During Thiessen's absence, the Penguins had a 4-1 shot advantage. Scott Munroe used his glove to get a piece of the only shot he faced.
St. John's took a 1-0 lead 5:21 into the game when Thiessen mishandled a routine play.
Jason King got credit for the score, but there were no IceCaps near Thiessen when a slow-rolling puck got through his legs for the goal.
"I think we realized that 1-0 wasn't going to be the final score," Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes said. "I think we realized we were doing some good things."
The Penguins tied the game at 8:13 of the second period when Cal O'Reilly worked the puck free in the left corner and fed Paul Thompson, who scored on a quick wrist shot from the slot.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished with a 45-29 shot advantage.