PORTLAND — There was extra hockey on Friday at the Rose Garden.
Thanks to the scoring touch of Edmonton’s Michael St. Croix and the play of goalie Laurent Brossoit, there will be more to this Western Hockey League championship series.
St. Croix scored his third goal of the night 7:24 into overtime to give the Oil Kings a 3-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks, extending the best-of-7 series to a sixth game in Edmonton on Sunday.
“Obviously, this one stings a bit. We’re not going to lie about that,” Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones said. “We really wanted this one.”
So did an Edmonton team playing for its survival. Despite a Portland goal 15 seconds into the game sending a thrill through the sold-out Rose Garden, despite not getting any power plays and being outshot 51-30, the Oil Kings found a way to win.
Thanks to more than a little good luck.
The first Edmonton goal deflected in off the skate of a Winterhawk. The second was a freebie after a mistake by Portland goalie Mac Carruth. And on the winner a St. Croix pass bounced off a defenseman’s skate right back to him in front.
“The last couple of games I thought we deserved a little bit better fate than what we got,” said 20-year-old Dylan Wruck, who set up all three goals. “Tonight the puck went in for us. It was good to see, and it was a good effort from the guys tonight.”
Acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green praised his team’s effort, and agreed that fortune smiled on the Oil Kings in this one.
“I really liked the way our team played tonight,” Green said. “Any time you get 51 shots in a playoff game against a good quality team, you’re doing a lot of good things.
“I thought Edmonton played a good road game and got a couple of bounces, but it was a great hockey game.”
The start couldn’t have been better for the home team. Third-line forward Joey Baker dumped a puck into the attacking zone that hit defenseman Martin Gernat and bounced back to Baker. His back-hand shot found its way behind Brossoit and cranked up the Rose Garden crowd of 10,947.
Portland pushed for more, carrying the play through the first 10 minutes before the first bit of fortune for the visitors. T.J. Foster’s centering pass for St. Croix deflect off the skate of Winterhawk Nic Petan and past Carruth, tying the game at 10:14 of the first period.
The score was still 1-1 when a strange sequence put the Oil Kings ahead seven minutes into the third period.
Carruth went to the corner to play a dumped-in puck. Foster pressured Carruth and Carruth’s pass behind the goal was intercepted by Wruck. The resulting scramble in front was won by St. Croix whose spinning shot found its way through several flailing Winterhawks.
St. Croix said he was surprised that Carruth tried to play his dump-in with the score tied.
“It was a little bit of a bizarre play. Carruth went out there and Wruck read (his pass) perfectly,” St. Croix said. “Wruck saw me going to the net. Luckily I was able to get a little spin-o-rama there and it went in.”
Green said playing dump-ins is a strength of Carruth’s.
“We like Mac playing the puck,” Green said. “He’s been pretty good at that the last few years, reading the play, reading the situation. Obviously there he probably should have just gone off the wall with it. It’s as simple as that.”
Brendan Leipsic got that one back, scoring from a sharp angle with 5:55 left in the third period. Jones made the outlet pass, and Leipsic stormed into the zone. His back-hand try from near the faceoff circle deflected off the stick of defenseman Ashton Sauter and over Brossoit’s shoulder.
In overtime, Portland pressed for the winner, getting eight shots on goal and creating a half dozen decent chances to win it. But Brossoit didn’t let it happen. Then Wruck made the winner happen, gaining the zone with speed up the left wing and centering the puck to St. Croix.
Seconds later it was in the net, and the series heading back to Edmonton.
“Great start, great building, great atmosphere,” Green said. “We played a pretty good hockey game, we just didn’t get the result that we wanted.”