(WINDSOR, ON) – The Windsor Spitfires were 4-for-5 on the power play last night, with three of those goals coming on a single one-man advantage in the 2nd period. Still, the Spits needed overtime heroics to earn their first win 5-4 in the opening round of the OHL playoffs.
The game had a dismal first half. For much of the opening 30 minutes, Windsor was a team waiting for the inevitable; slow to the puck, mishandled passes, and a lacklustre offense. Then a bizarre mishap at 13:19 of the 2nd period changed the course of the entire game.
The visiting Rangers jumped into a 2-0 lead after two 1st period goals from Adam Mascherin, the first one coming on the power play at just the 1:08 mark while Logan Stanley languished in the box. Mascherin’s second of the night came with 1:46 left to play in the frame and had the effect of quieting further the crowd of 3,334.
The 2nd period began much like the 1st ended. Despite an early power play for Windsor, the boo birds were out in force as the club couldn’t mount any kind of sustained attack.
Then it happened.
On a rush up ice, Brendan Lemieux, who returned from a 2-game suspension, went into the Kitchener zone ahead of the play and was called off-side as the puck was fed from his left. Instead of letting up, as Ranger goalie Dawson Carty did, Lemieux fired the puck into the Kitchener goal.
As to be expected, the Rangers took exception to the flagrant foul. Unexpected was the head-hunting attack of Lemieux by Kitchener right wing Jake Henderson. After the had dust settled, Lemieux was in the box for an unsportsmanlike minor while Henderson was handed a major for the check to the head and a game misconduct.
The incident seemed to reenergize the Spitfires as they controlled the play and put Kitchener back on their heels while at 4-on-4. As Lemieux’s penalty expired, he returned to the ice and proceeded to complete a natural hat trick over the next 2:01.
Lemieux’s three goals put the Spitfires into the lead and had the short term effect of disorienting the Rangers. Bradley Latour took advantage of the disheartened Rangers and took a breakaway feed from Hayden McCool to beat Carty with a backhand to the glove side.
Windsor seemed to have the game well in hand with a 2-goal lead and 11:30 to play.
Little by little, however, Kitchener crept back into the game and began to chip away at the deficit. David Miller scored at 14:52 and then Gustaf Franzen found the twine behind Mike DiPietro, which Ross Sisco had to review before declaring it to be official.
Kitchener held the advantage in play during the overtime period. The crowd held their collective breath as Logan Brown sat out an interference penalty and their prayers were answered when Doug Blaisdell was sent off shortly before the midway point, for his own obstruction.
Brown atoned for his sins as he and Christian Fischer set up Latour for his second of the night and the game winner.
Windsor staves off elimination as they better their record to 1-3 in the best-of-seven series. They’ll now make the trip up Highway 401 to faceoff against the Rangers on Friday as every game now becomes do-or-die for the Spitfires.