Colts come back to topple 67's
When it came down to it, the Barrie Colts had the pieces needed for a playoff win.
Outstanding goaltending, gutsy efforts and timely scoring helped the Colts to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Ottawa 67's at home on Thursday night.
Although they didn't have their most complete game of the playoffs, the Colts now take a 3-1 series lead heading back to Ottawa for Game 5, despite trailing this contest after 40 minutes.
"We just kind of rallied in the dressing room during that second intermission and were saying to get shots on net," said Colts defenceman Chris Buonomo. "You never know what can happen."
They may not have been expecting things to pay off quite so quickly.
"Ekblad took a shot from the blue line and it just went in," Buonomo said. "It was a nice shot and it went in.
"We keep finding ways to win."
Ekblad's goal 20 seconds into the third period evened the score, as the attempt surprised Ottawa goaltender Petr Mrazek and beat him high to tie the game at 2-2.
Re-energized, the Colts pushed hard and continued to create more opportunities.
On a man advantage partway through the period, Dan Erlich, after receiving the puck from Ivan Telegin, waited to find his opening up the middle of the ice and put a low shot towards the net.
Colin Behenna had his stick in place and deflected it over the shoulder of Mrazek, giving Barrie a 3-2 advantage.
From then on in, Barrie starter Mathias Niederberger shut the 67's down, including a fantastic stop on Mike Cazzola while the netminder was down and out.
"Bergs has been outstanding this post-season and all year," Buonomo said. "He's one of the top goalies in the league right now and he's been on fire for us."
The 67's played the first period the way they were hoping to, and as a result, took a 1-0 lead into the dressing room.
Once again, it didn't take long for Ottawa to open the scoring.
Just 2:17 in, Cazzola won an offensive-zone draw back to Sean Callaghan, who took a shot that was blocked in front of the net.
Remy Giftopoulos made a nice play to snag the rebound, turn around, and slip the puck through Niederberger to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead.
The 67's came out far more physical than they had in Game 3, and had the ideal start for a road team.
They also kept the Colts from getting in too close to Mrazek, who was able to just freeze the puck on a few occasions where the 67's defenceman had removed the Barrie forward from the puck.
When the Colts were firing, including a couple of late-period chances by Telegin, Mrazek was out well past the blue ice to cut off the angle.
The 67's were strong on the puck for most of the night, but on the occasion that they weren't, the Colts made them pay.
After an initial attempt on Mrazek, Janes had an opportunity to clear the puck out of the zone, but instead feathered one towards the blue line that was picked off by Derek Hartwick.
The veteran defenceman stepped into one and beat Mrazek to the glove side, tying the game at 1-1 and earning Hartwick a bear hug from fellow blueliner Alex Lepkowski.
Although the goal gave Barrie some life, the 67's got back to their style of play with getting players to the front of the net, and that helped them pull ahead once again.
On a rush into the Colts zone, Tyler Toffoli fed Cody Ceci, who stepped to the outside and took a shot on Niederberger.
The German import wasn't able to freeze the initial shot, and Sean Monahan was on the doorstep to slip it through Niederberger's legs, giving Ottawa a 2-1 lead through two periods.
"We definitely have to come out better," Buonomo said. "Our first two periods weren't how they should have been in our barn."
Even though the 67's outshot Barrie 10-6 in the final frame, they found themselves behind and attempted furiously to tie things up, keeping the pressure on the Colts for the final two minutes of the contest.
But when Mark Scheifele cleared an attempt with seconds to go, it was enough to send Barrie on the road to Ottawa, just one win away from taking the series.
"Now, we just have to get some sleep on the bus if we can," Buonomo said. "We'll go to the hotel and probably sleep in a bit.
"They have the same drive we do so it's not like anyone has an advantage."
Game 5 goes Friday night in Ottawa at 7:30 p.m.
Prince, Toffoli, and the rest: Ottawa wingers Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli have accounted for the bulk of playoff scoring for the 67's. Coming into Thursday's contest, the duo had notched 14 of Ottawa's 29 goals, or over 48% of their team's total production.
To another level: Colts centre Mark Scheifele has taken off in his past four contests. After picking up just three points in his first five playoff games against Mississauga, the first-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets has seven in his previous four games before Thursday, including having a hand in five of Barrie's nine goals in its first three games. His production only trails Ivan Telegin, who was a part of six second-round tallies.
Not dressed for tonight's game: Barrie was without Zach Hall (concussion), Tanner Pearson (fibula), Alex Yuill (MCL), Ryan O'Connor, Steven Beyers and Cody Brown. Ottawa scratched Daniel Broussard, Mike Vlajkov, John McFarland, Ryan MacLean and Daniel Walsh.
Out of town scoreboard: The only other game on tap tonight was Game 4 between Niagara and Brampton, and the IceDogs successfully swept the Battalion with a 3-1 victory. Niagara will now play the winner of the Barrie/Ottawa series.
How the second round shapes up: Game 1 Barrie 1 @ Ottawa 5
Game 2 Barrie 3 @ Ottawa 2 (2O/T)
Game 3 Ottawa 2 @ Barrie 5
Game 4 Ottawa 2 @ Barrie 3
Game 5 Barrie @ Ottawa Friday, April 13th, 7:30 p.m.
Game 6 Ottawa @ Barrie Sunday, April 15th, 7:30 p.m.
Game 7 Barrie @ Ottawa Tuesday, April 17th, 7:00 p.m.
COLTS ON THE SCORE SHEET:
Colin Behenna: 1G, 1A
Ivan Telegin: 2A
Derek Hartwick: 1G
Aaron Ekblad: 1G
Dan Erlich: 1A
Mathias Niederberger: 32 saves