The highs in playoff hockey are like nothing else in professional sports.
The lows in playoff hockey? Just as dramatic.
Jeremy Smith stood on his head, the Admirals survived a first period that looked like a continuation from a previous game, and had some puck luck to get to a 2-0 lead.
And then the captain, did what captains before him have done so very many times before.
Puck over glass. Delay of game. Two minutes for “Yonking”.
That put the Admirals down two men with 4:55 left in the game. Grant Lewis was already in the box for setting a pick (a penalty that should have had an Aero player accompany him to the box after a shot to Lewis’ face).
It took the Aeros 33 seconds to score. Robbie Earl’s shot low stick side beat Smith.
Chad Rau tied the game with 1:21 left, as Matt Hackett was heading to the bench for the extra attacker.
Robbie Earl was the man in overtime as well, jamming the puck past Smith at the near post, while Casey Wellman was in the crease. He was engaged with a defenseman, but it may have been enough to distract Smith on the game winning goal.
Houston outshot the Admirals 19-6 in the opening period, thanks in part to four Aero power plays in the frame. Smith was outstanding, making some saves that Pekka Rinne might not have.
Ryan Thang continued his strong play, scoring his fifth of the playoffs on a fluky goal. A Thanger shot went off of Hackett’s blocker, popped in the air, landed on Hackett’s shoulder, rolled off, hit the crossbar, then fell down to the goalline, where Thang finished the job. Put the puck on net, stuff happens. What a concept!
The Admirals second goal had a little bit of puck luck too, as the ice shavings in front of the bench slowed down a puck just enough on a shorthanded clear that Mike Bartlett was able to scoop it up. While he couldn’t get a shot off, Steve Begin did, and scored with 5 seconds left in the period.
The Admirals failed to convert two power play chances in the 3rd period before their time on the 5-on-3 penalty kill. A goal there may have been just enough to put the game out of reach.
Smitty ended the night with 50 saves on 53 shots. Hackett had 23 saves on 25 shots. (Shot counter isn’t doing Hackett any favors!)
Patrick O’Sullivan (12), Chad Rau (9), and Robbie Earl (6) combined had two more shots than the full Admirals roster.
So now what? The Admirals will face their first elimination game of the playoffs Sunday evening at the Bradley Center. If the Predators lose Saturday night in Vancouver, there may be some reinforcements coming to Milwaukee. And boy, could we use them about now. I think we’ve seen enough ATO guys for awhile.