MILWAUKEE -- Friday's Game 4 between the Iowa Wild and Milwaukee Admirals was expected to be more like July 4.
With the expectation of fireworks going in, much of the excitement took place between the whistles instead of after them. Following an emotional end to Game 3 on Thursday, one that saw controversial penalties, a potentially serious injury and several game misconducts, there was the belief that tensions could be at an all-time high Friday night at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
And while the action after the whistles was rather docile, the Wild and Admirals played perhaps the most exciting game of the series so far.
Unfortunately for Iowa, it could never quite grab the lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Admirals, setting up a winner-take-all Game 5 here in Milwaukee on Monday.
"It doesn't always go the way you want it to," said Iowa forward Ryan Donato. "We batted back many times but we also let them back in the game many times."
Milwaukee led 2-0 in the first period and it looked like Game 4 could be a blowout for the home team. But Matt Read scored a huge goal late in the first to completely swing the momentum and get Iowa to within a goal after 20 minutes.
Gerald Mayhew continued his torrid play in the postseason by scoring his third goal 4:15 in the second, resetting the game through 40 minutes.
Things got interesting in the third.
Milwaukee's Anthony Richard scored 3:11 in giving Milwaukee its second lead of the night but Cal O'Reilly tied it with a power-play goal 2:12 later.
Phil Di Giuseppe scored 91 seconds after that for another Admirals lead, only to see Mayhew score a short-handed marker 5:01 later to tie the game for a third time.
"We kept battling back, we kept plugging away," said Iowa coach Tim Army. "That's the way it goes. They're a good team, we're a good team and we expected this would be a tough series."
In a game filled with pretty passing plays and well-placed shots, the overtime winner was, as it so often is this time of year, off a deflection in front.
The Admirals won an offensive-zone faceoff back to defenseman Frederic Allard, who fired a quick shot towards goaltender Andrew Hammond. On its way, the puck deflected off Wild defenseman Carson Soucy's stick, bounced in the air and landed in the net over Hammond for the winner.
In all, the game featured four lead changes, two short-handed goals (one for each team), two power-play goals (both for the Wild) and one overtime winner.
It did not have a fight, a misconduct or a major, although the game did have a total of 12 power plays, half of them as a result of hooking.
The one thing it didn't have was an Iowa lead, which has been the biggest difference in the series since it shifted to Milwaukee.
In the first two games in Des Moines, the Wild never trailed. In two games in Milwaukee, it's never led.
That must change in Game 5 if Iowa plans on advancing to the next round.
"We've gotta come back and play hard again," Mayhew said. "Puck luck wasn't on our side tonight, but if we just keep working hard, I think we can get it done."
Iowa will have a day off on Saturday before a practice on Sunday -- its first since before the playoffs started -- to get its minds right ahead of Game 5 on Monday night in Milwaukee. The Wild is determined not to let the circumstances of the series take its toll mentally. Army won't let it, and neither will the team's veterans.
"At 12 o'clock midnight tonight, it's a new day and a new match," said Wild forward Mike Liambas. "It's a clean slate, every new game. We learn from it, we get away tomorrow and regroup Sunday at practice. We're still alive and there's another game left to decide this thing."
More from Iowa's Calder Cup Playoff run: