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Big second period lifts Hitmen over Oil Kings

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Brad Watson / Calgary Hitmen.

CALGARY - That's not what the Edmonton Oil Kings had in mind.

Even the Calgary Hitmen couldn't have anticipated that.

In a miserable second period, highlighted by an even more horrendous stretch of 304 seconds played, 10 shots and four Hitmen goals, Calgary built up a 5-1 lead in one of the most dominant displays of the post-season.

Curtis Lazar pulled his club within three with a power-play goal in the third, but it wasn't enough as the Hitmen bounced the Oil Kings with a 5-2 win in Game 3 of the WHL Eastern Conference Final Tuesday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Trevor Cheek scored Edmonton's other goal.

Sensational early on and coming off a 6-0 shutout in Game 2, Laurent Brossoit was chased in the second period after making only 21 saves on 26 shots.

"I didn't think it was a very good game at all," said Head Coach Derek Laxdal. "Our guys didn't play with a lot of urgency or a lot of passion. I thought we played on our laurels tonight and not how we're supposed to play. Just because we won the other night and tied up the series didn't mean that Calgary was going to lie down.

"Our guys need a little eye-opener here."

"It all happened pretty quick," added Brossoit. "We didn't look like ourselves and they took advantage. We haven't shown our best or even close to our best in this series."

The Oil Kings got the start they wanted (sort of), but couldn't sustain much else after scoring the icebreaker.

As Hitmen winger Calder Brooks was off serving a holding minor at 4:54, the Oil Kings surrendered three separate shorthanded scoring chances.

First, it was a miscue by Oilers prospect Martin Gernat that led to an odd-man rush. Then, a bumbled pass back to the point by Henrik Samuelsson sprung Cody Sylvester on a breakaway.

Giving his team a chance, Brossoit was there on both.

Finally, a soft and ill-timed pinch gave the Hitmen a 2-on-1 back the other way, but Brossoit made a circus-like glove save, rivaling Bill Ranford's best as he slid across, barrel rolled and robbed Brooks Macek with one of the flashiest saves of the season.

It was a microcosm of all that can (and did) go wrong. Brossoit was hung out to dry, left by his lonesome as the Hitmen poured it on all night long.

"I felt like I played well throughout and don't think the goals were too bad," said Brossoit. "The last one I felt like I should have had, but I'm looking past it and I'm already focused on the next game."

In a surprise and short-lived turn of fortune, Trevor Cheek scored moments later, collecting his team-leading ninth of the playoffs by slipping one past Chris Driedger on the Oil Kings' one and only shot of the power-play.

Driedger made 32 saves in the win.

Calgary led 13-6 in shots after one as Edmonton clung to a 1-0 advantage.

Less than a minute into the second period, the Hitmen brought the game back on even terms. Slipping behind Keegan Lowe and David Musil, Greg Chase burst down the gut and beat Brossoit on a breakaway, netting his fourth goal and eighth point of the post-season.

A pair of Hitmen goals scored 40 seconds apart put the Oil Kings in a deep hole before the period was 10 minutes old.

Brady Brassart capitalized on a goalmouth rebound to make it a 2-1 game with a power-play goal at 8:11, then Elliott Peterson extended the lead after walking the defence (Gernat, Griffin Reinhart and a hard-charging Dylan Wruck at the centre position) and sliding a shot past Brossoit.

"When you take penalties and put yourself behind the eight ball, that's going to happen," said Laxdal. "We talked about discipline, we preached discipline and some guys don't get the message. Against a good hockey club like that, they're going to sting you.

"Right now with this group of kids that we have, we seem to be getting focused too much on everything after the whistle. That saps a lot of energy from the team. If you can focus your energy whistle to whistle, I tell you, the game is a lot easier."

"We've got to be ready to go tomorrow night," added Keegan Lowe, who collected four penalty minutes and a -1 rating in the loss. "We came out a little slow in the second period and the next thing we know…"

Another two in quick succession buried the Oil Kings as the already insurmountable hole became a chasm.

Separated by a mere 29 seconds, Calder Brooks (on the power-play) and Viktor Rask each scored to make it a 5-1 game and chase Brossoit after making only 21 saves on 25 shots.

Laxdal described it was a "rest pull" for Brossoit to give him ample recovery time in preparation for Game 4 tomorrow night.

In relief, Tristan Jarry stopped all three shots he faced.

"Calgary was the better team tonight," said Laxdal. "Even in that 6-0 game, they played us pretty hard. Our guys have to show up with a little more passion. They had their legs, they battled harder and I didn't think that our guys did enough of that.

"We won the third period, but that's nothing because the game was already done."

A hooking penalty to Brooks gave the Oil Kings their fourth power-play chance of the game at 6:55 of the third. Off the rush, Curtis Lazar flew past the Hitmen defence and rifled a wrist shot past Driedger to make it a 5-2 game.

"We knew what to expect tonight, but it still got the better of us," said Lazar, noting that the club, while anticipating a special teams battle, still gave up eight power-plays and a pair of goals on them. "That's something we've got to address and change.

"We're waiting for something, but we don't really know what we're waiting for. That's going to change come tomorrow."

OIL SPILLS: Captain Griffin Reinhart left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury. It's unknown at this time if he'll be able to play tomorrow night. Luke Bertolucci also left the game after getting his "bell rung," according to Laxdal, and will be unavailable for Game 4.

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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