Flames win 4-3, one win away from Calder Cup.
By Aaron McCracken
It may have been the biggest game in the franchise's history, but the Saint John Flames were up to the task, beating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-3 on Friday night. The Flames now own a 3-2 lead in the Calder Cup finals, and will have a chance to win the championship at home on Monday night.
Game five wasn't easy for the Flames, but through grit, determination, and a little bit of luck, the Flames were able to pull through and beat their nemesis from Pennsylvania. Jason Botterill led the way with a pair of goals, his first two of the playoffs, while Marty Murray posted three points. Martin Brochu was solid in net, making approximately 25 saves on the night.
Wilkes-Barre opened the scoring on a power play in the second minute of play with Sergei Varlamov off on a completely unnecessary roughing penalty. The Pens were 8-0 in the playoffs when scoring the first goal, but the Flames didn't seem fazed by the early marker. Daniel Tkaczuk tied the game at 7:50 of the first with a power play goal of his own, his 10th of the playoffs.
The momentum changed midway through the period when Steve Begin took a puck in the face and had to be helped off the ice. The Flames' centre lost a lot of blood and his return looked doubtful. The Pens controlled the remainder of the period and were able to score with 0.1 seconds left on a Martin Sonnenberg tip-in. The Flames argued the goal, but to no avail.
Miraculously, Begin returned the start the 2nd period, and the Flames came out very strong. Jason Botterill gave Saint John the lead thirty-six seconds into the period when he slammed a shot past a fallen Rich Parent. The Flames had several chances to take the lead, including a Rico Fata breakaway, but Parent made several key saves to keep the game tied. Finally, with just over a minute remaining, the Flames were able to bury one of their chances when Parent yielded a fat rebound to Botterill, who notched his second of the game.
The Flames started the third period tentatively, but were able to capitalize on a huge Penguins mistake early in the period. Andrew Ference gave the puck away behind his net to Marty Murray, who then banked a shot off of Parent to give the Flames a 4-2 lead. However, Ference made up for his mistake just over a minute later when he blasted a point shot through traffic that beat a screened Brochu, and put the Pens back within a goal.
Both teams had huge chances to score midway through the period. Derrick Walser was responsible for a horrible give-away to Tom Kostopolous, but Martin Brochu was able to block the shot and hold on to the rebound. At the other end of the ice, Blair Betts was robbed by Rich Parent on a breakaway with less than five minutes remaining.
Although the game looked to shaping up for a dramatic finish, it didn't turn out to be the case. Andrew Ference was called for slashing with less than 3 minutes to play, and the Pens never really had any chances to score down the stretch. They did manage to pull Parent with 25 seconds remaining, but the Flames were able to clear the puck and keep the play in the neutral zone until the horn sounded.
The Flames will try to win their first Calder Cup on Monday night. The game starts at 7:30 Atlantic time.
News and Notes
Lines and Roster update
Murray – Varlamov – Clark
Tkaczuk – Begin -- Varlamov
Betts – Roche – Fata
Morgan – Doull -- Royer
Walser – Martin
Montador – Scoville
Mrozik – Dupont
Scratches: Chris St. Croix (healthy), Bobby Russell (healthy), Jeff Mitchell (healthy), Jamie Ling (healthy), Miika Elomo (out), Kenny Corupe (out), Dany Sabourin (healthy).