Josh Currie scores his first of the Calder Cup Playoffs in double overtime, staving off elimination for the Condors with a 2-1 win to force Game 6 back in San Diego on Monday
BAKERSFIELD, CA - Don't shut the 'dor just yet.
Facing elimination in Game 5, forward Josh Currie scored his first goal of the Calder Cup Playoffs with 6:58 remaining in the second overtime to keep the Condors season alive and send the Rabobank Arena faithful that braved another marathon outing into raptures with a 2-1 victory on Saturday.
"I started to grip the stick a little too much there, but that's a huge goal so I'll take it," Currie said post-game. "It's nice to chip in and hopefully I can continue now into the next game and moving forward."
Defenceman Caleb Jones kicked the puck off the faceoff to Benson, who delivered the puck on a platter for Currie to break the deadlock in the second multiple-overtime game of this series - a new first in the AHL.
"They're two good teams out there," Currie said. "They've got a lot of good players, we've got a lot of good players, and shots and chances are at a premium. Whenever you do get a chance, you have to make it count. I was lucky to make my shot count there."
Stuart Skinner answered the call in net for the Condors, making 45 saves on 46 shots after getting the nod from Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft after providing relief for Shane Starrett in two-consecutive contests.
The Bakersfield netminder from Edmonton, Alberta last played a full 60 minutes on March 8 in a regular-season game against the Stockton Heat.
"I think it obviously helped getting [me] back to the speed of the game," Skinner said of his efforts in relief. "Obviously I haven't played for a month or month-and-a-half, so it was nice to get in those games and get start competing again."
Gulls netminder Jeff Glass countered at the opposite end with 42 on 44 attempts, with both netminders bailing their teammates out with multiple stellar saves in the third sudden-death match of this AHL Pacific Division Final.
Joe Gambardella's opening goal 10:30 into the opening frame marked the forward's fifth of the series and seventh point, and an assist for Brad Malone adds to his second-best total for points in the AHL postseason with four goals and eight assists in nine outings.
"I know the boys are going to show up. We're going to get our rest and we're going to come out flying in Game 6," Skinner continued.
"We're going to do our best, not a lot is in our control, I think we can influence a lot of things by working hard and sticking to our game plan just being a tight squad how we were tonight. I think that's going to be the key for us going into Game 6."
In addition to the swap of crease protectors, Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft went with a different look in all positions from Friday's Game 4. Cameron Hebig made his series debut alongside Ryan McLeod and Nolan Vesey, and Currie moved to centre on the second line alongside Benson and defenceman-turned-forward Logan Day.
"We used more players, we were harder on pucks, and eventually it led to us cracking them," Woodcroft said.
The Condors made quick work of their first power-play opportunity to open the scoring when Gambardella deflected Evan Bouchard's point shot 9:30 into the opening period. The Gulls were fortunate to not still be shorthanded after Currie argued Andy Welinski's high-sticking call on him should've been a double minor.
San Diego levelled things halfway through the middle frame with a 3-on-2 passing play started by Sam Steel and Corey Tropp before Kevin Roy tapped home into an empty net after Skinner was pulled out of position.
The visitors dominated the second period much like in Friday's contest, but the teams headed towards the final 20 minutes deadlocked at 1-1 on the scoreboard and level on shots 19-19.
The biggest save of the game might have come with 10:20 on the clock in the third, when Stanton cleared a loose puck in the crease away from danger with Gulls forwards lurking in the goalmouth area.
Russell came inches away from all but securing survival for Bakersfield when Brad Malone delivered a perfect pass in front of goal, but the Danish forward's deflection only grazed his stick before floating into the corner.
For the third time this series, we would go to overtime. The Gulls won Game 1 after a marathon four overtimes before the Condors ended Game 3 after only 33 seconds of sudden death back on Wednesday.
"I think in the third period, teams weren't wanting to give the other team that opportunity to get up one," Currie said. "In overtime, I think teams wanted to put an end to it. It's a back-to-back with travel, so guys' fatigue was definitely a factor."
Skinner made a monumental save nearly six minutes in before Gambardella picked up the rebound and drove all the way to San Diego's goal only to have his effort parried away by Glass to end an intense spell of play from both sides.
Russell once again had the winning opportunity on his stick in the second overtime when Bouchard fed a crisp pass that was valiantly saved by the outstretched Glass. Malone couldn't capitalize on the rebound as another chance to extend the Condors' playoff lives went waning.
But the Condors weren't to be denied.
With 6:58 remaining in the second overtime, Benson delivered a pass to Currie in the slot, who picked a critical moment to score his first of the playoffs and wire a one-timer past Glass to send us back to San Diego for Game 6 on Monday.
We don't like to dwell on the wins or losses too much, but I think that gives us tonnes of energy and brings a lot of confidence to the group," Currie said. "Now the job is going to San Diego and winning one game there, then force a Game 7 here back in front of our home crowd. We're going to enjoy this for 10 to 15 minutes, but then tomorrow it's right back to work to get ready for Game 6."