Blades draw even with 7-2 victory in Game 2
LAS VEGAS — Down 2-1 in the middle of the second period and on a seemingly endless parade to the penalty box, things didn’t look good for the Florida Everblades on Tuesday night. But things changed at the drop of a hat — or more accurately a drop of the gloves by Florida enforcer Leigh Salters.
Salters attempted to fight with Las Vegas goalie Joe Fallon and the ensuing misconduct penalty seemed to ignite Florida. After the incident, the Everblades battled back, reeling off six more goals to cruise to a 7-2 victory over the Wranglers in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals.
“I like to be the enemy,” a smiling Salters said postgame. “I like when guys hate me, I thrive off it and I think I’m a better player when I’m on the hot seat.”
In the early going, things weren’t looking good for the Everblades. Las Vegas dictated play in the first period and scored two goals (Chris Francis, 10:20 and Judd Blackwater, 15:36).
But a rousing intermission speech from Florida forward Trevor Bruess seemed to awaken the team.
“He basically said there’s no way we’re losing this game,” Florida forward David Rutherford said. “That really got us going and carried into the second period.”
Early in the second Florida finally broke through against Fallon, as Mathieu Roy slid a shot from the slot into the back of the net. Despite the power-play goal, momentum still seemed to favor the home Wranglers.
But Salters, who hadn’t played since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, came into the game with a mission. He quickly made his presence felt after what he felt was a slash from Fallon. He struck back with a shot of his own, drawing ire from the home fans and the Wranglers players and coaches.
Salters was given a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, followed by a 10-minute misconduct. As he left the ice, he taunted the Wranglers crowd.
“I don’t know how that guy stays in the game after he baseball checks my goalie and then cross-checks him in the head,” Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel said. “… It seems a little bit ridiculous, if (Las Vegas enforcer) Adam Huxley does that to their goalie he probably gets 10 games (suspension).”
Less than two minutes later, while the teams skated 4-on-4, it was rookie Justin Shugg rising to the occasion for the Everblades. Shugg blasted a shot from the blue line that hit the left post, and trickled behind Fallon and into the net. The goal tied the game at 2-2.
“I was just trying to get it through,” Shugg said. “There was a couple shot blockers but it just managed to find its way into the net.”
Florida got another power play chance at the 16:35 mark of the period, and cashed it in when Matt Marquardt’s shot from the left circle sneaked by Fallon’s right shoulder. The goal gave Florida a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
The Wranglers opened the third period with 1:35 of power play time, but failed to take advantage of the opportunity.
With the lead and the momentum shifting their way, Florida blew the game wide open.
Goals from David Rutherford (3:15), Cedric McNicoll (5:10) and Brandon MacLean (7:03) quickly sent the home fans heading for the exits.
Las Vegas didn’t mount much of a comeback effort following MacLean’s goal, as Florida thoroughly dominated the final period.
David Fischer added Florida’s final goal with less than two minutes on the clock.
With the goal onslaught and emotional nature of Game 2, Florida coach Greg Poss said his team has to be ready for Friday’s Game 3.
“It’ll be a real interesting game Friday night, that’s for sure,” Poss said. “There’s a lot of emotion right now.”
After failing to score on two prime chances Monday night, Marquardt atoned on Tuesday, scoring one goal and assisting on two others. Rutherford also had a goal and two assists, as did McNicoll.
Florida goalie John Muse bounced back from what he called a bad Game 1 to earn the victory for the Everblades.
Defenseman Ryan McGinnis made his Kelly Cup Playoffs debut for Florida, replacing Kevin Quick in the lineup. Salters returned to the lineup at the expense of Charles Landry, who was a healthy scratch.
Both teams will spend Wednesday traveling, in advance of Friday’s Game 3 at Germain Arena. The Everblades will leave the team hotel at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and aren’t expected to arrive in Florida until after 9 p.m. Wednesday night.