The Hamilton Bulldogs let another 2-0 series lead slip as the Manitoba Moose defeated the ‘Dogs in a 5-4 thriller at the MTS Centre. Shutting down the top players on the Moose roster was key in the first two wins for Hamilton, but the big guns for the Moose all came out of their cages on the same night. The top four point getters for the Moose in this year’s playoffs, Marco Rosa, Sergei Shirokov, Jason Jaffray, and Mark Flood picked up a combined 3 goals, and 6 assists in a must win game for Manitoba. The turning point of the game was the final 34 seconds of the second period, as the Moose scored two consecutive goals including a buzzer beater by Shirokov with only one second remaining on the clock.
For the third straight game, the Moose broke the ice to get the game’s first goal, but the lead ended quickly after Ian Schultz scored his second of the playoffs just 1:28 later. The ‘Dogs have scored four unanswered goals after tying the game at one all in the previous two games. The Moose felt that pressure fall back onto their shoulders early in the period once Aaron Palushaj scored his 4th of the playoffs beating Eddie Lack top shelf on a partial breakaway.
The Bulldogs were confident with just 35 seconds remaining in the period they would go into the third period with a one goal lead but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Coach Cunneyworth had to call a timeout due to an icing call. They were playing a tight defensive game throughout the period but after failing to clear the puck out of their zone, Jordan Schroeder picked up a loose rebound for his first of the post season.
A few seconds later, Ryan White interfered with Jason Jaffray behind his own net with only 1.9 seconds remaining in the period. Off the ensuing face-off, Marco Rosa won the face-off cleanly and Shirokov one timed the puck into the back of the net with just a second remaining. It was the Moose first power play goal of the series in 12 attempts. There was a bit of anger from the ‘Dogs bench as the green light went on and not the red light. Since there is no video replay in the AHL, the referees had to use their judgments. The goal stood and it was a bit of karma as a goal was disallowed earlier when Drew MacIntyre was catching a puck past the goal line and back out.
In the third period, the Moose PP unit clicked for the second straight time giving the Moose a 4-2 lead. As the announcer was announcing the goal, Gabriel Dumont got the crowd back into their seats by making a great individual play with his third in two games to cut the lead back to one.
The top line of Rosa, Shirokov, and Jaffray was reunited in the third period and paid dividends for the Moose. Their tic-tac-toe play was the goal of the series and a huge blow for the Bulldogs with just 2:17 remaining.
Ryan White scored his first of the post-season off a scramble in front of the net at 19:28 but it was a little too late. Both goaltenders made 23 saves but it was Eddie Lack giving his team the victory to cut the lead in half.
Game 4 will be played on Wednesday night at 8:30 EST.