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Thunder take 2-1 series lead

by Mike Benton / Edmonton Oilers


Thunder take 2-1 series lead on Huddy's three points, Van Buskirk's 38 saves

- Goaltender Parker Van Buskirk made 38 saves for his fifth win in seven postseason games, spelling Ryan Huddy's three point (2g-1a) performance in a 5-1 Stockton Thunder victory over the Las Vegas Wranglers in Game 3 of the Pacific Division Finals of the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs, before 4,237 fans at Stockton Arena on Thursday.

The Thunder took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, scoring the first four goals of the contest and producing a 2-for-5 effort on the power-play. James Bates and Judd Blackwater collected a pair of assists while Garet Hunt, Craig Valette and Damian Surma also scored for Stockton. Jason Dest scored the only goal for Las Vegas in the third period.

Game 1: Las Vegas 3 at Stockton 4 
Game 2: Stockton 2 at Las Vegas 4
Game 3: Las Vegas 1 at Stockton 5
Game 4: Las Vegas at Stockton - Saturday, May 2 - 7:30 p.m. (Stockton Arena)
Game 5: Stockton at Las Vegas - Monday, May 4 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena)
Game 6: Stockton at Las Vegas - Tuesday, May 5 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena) *
Game 7: Stockton at Las Vegas - Wednesday, May 6 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena)*
* If necessary

Hunt's second goal of the postseason put the Thunder ahead 1-0 at 9:40 of the opening period, slipping a rebound past Las Vegas goaltender John DeCaro after Huddy was denied on a snap shot from between the hash marks.

Valette spiked the lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal at 3:36 of the second period and his fifth goal of the playoffs. Following DeCaro's save on Surma's shot from the slow, Valette found a loose puck in a scrum at the goal mouth and parked the rebound under DeCaro's pads.

Huddy took a left corner pass by Bates in the slot and buried a wrist shot from the slot with 7:37 left in the second period to increase the Thunder lead to 3-0 for his first goal of the game.

Van Buskirk, who stopped the first 24 shots he saw in the game, wrapped up the second period with a point-blank, blocker save on Dan Riedel's one-timer at the goal mouth in the waning seconds.

Just 31 seconds into the third period, the Thunder boosted the lead to 4-0 in the first shift of the frame when Huddy snuck a rebound past DeCaro's glove side from in tight.

Bates then drew a five-minute head-butting major by J.D. Watt in a third period scrap at the 2:13 mark to produce a five-minute major power-play, helping drain the clock but allowing a goal by the Wranglers in a 4-on-4 skating situation following Craig Valette's cross-checking penalty in the middle of the man-advantage. Dest took a 60-foot slap shot from the left wing that snuck under the crossbar for Las Vegas' only tally of the night at 4:48.

The Thunder warded off any attempts of a dramatic rally by the Wranglers and buried their counterparts with Surma's first goal of the postseason at 16:28 on a power-play, drilling a slap shot past DeCaro's blocker from the right circle for a 5-1 cushion.

DeCaro dropped to 1-4 in the postseason, making 30 saves.

Before the game, the Thunder activated defenseman Tyler Kindle off the injured reserve list and placed right wing Igor Gongalsky on the 3-day injured reserve list ... scratches for Game 3 were Andrew Perugini (injury, day-to-day), Mike Lalonde (injured reserve), Matt O'Dette (injured reserve), Gongalsky (injured reserve), Sebastien Bisaillon (healthy) and Adam Huxley (healthy) ... Bates extended his playoff scoring streak to a league-high tying seven straight games ... dating back to game 7 of the first round, the Thunder power-play has converted at an 8-for-23 rate (34.7%) ... Stockton shut down the league-leading Wranglers power-play unit at just an 0-for-1 clip ... Edmonton Oilers assistant coach and former NHL defenseman Charlie Huddy was in attendance at the game.

The Thunder and Wranglers return to play for Game 4 of the series on Saturday, May 2 at Stockton Arena, starting at 7:30 p.m. The game is available on radio at 1420 KSTN and is available for viewing online (audio is free-of-charge) for a $7 charge at (courtesy of B2 Networks).

Three Stars
1. STK - 30 Parker Van Buskirk
2. STK - 26 Ryan Huddy
3. STK - 27 James Bates

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