The playoff hopes of the Worcester Sharks took a devastating hit Saturday night at the DCU Center as the Sharks were defeated 5-4 in overtime by the St. John's IceCaps after blowing a two goal lead inside the final three minutes of the third period.
Sharks alternate captain Bracken Kearns had a three point game with two goals and an assist, rookie Daniil Tarasov dished out three assists and goaltender Thomas Greiss made 22 saves in net for the Sharks, who now trail the Hershey Bears by seven points with two games in hand for the final playoff spot in the AHL Eastern Conference.
The start of the game saw an unusual occurrence as backup goaltender Harri Sateri was sent out on the ice to replace Greiss prior to the drop of the puck for the opening face-off. Sateri stayed in net until the first stoppage of play, which occurred 51-seconds into the game, and was then replaced by Greiss. Sateri didn't face a shot on goal but did extend his streak of consecutive starts to 12 games.
After Sharks enforcer Jimmy Bonneau pounded IceCaps right winger Norm Ezekiel into the ice at 2:24 of the first period, Sharks rookie right winger Peter Sivak put the Sharks up 1-0 at 3:29 with his third goal of the season off a missile of a shot from 55-feet out at the top of the center point that beat IceCaps goaltender Edward Pasquale. Tarasov and Kearns were credited with the assists.
The IceCaps tied the game at 14:41 on a shorthanded goal by left winger Jason Gregoire, who stole the puck at center ice from Tarasov, skated in alone on Greiss and slid a backhander under Greiss' glove for his 10th goal of the season.
Just 101-seconds into the second period, the IceCaps took a 2-1 lead when center Aaron Gagnon fired the puck into an open net off a rebound on an odd man rush after Greiss had made the initial save on IceCaps center Ben Maxwell. The goal was Gagnon's 11th of the season and set-up by Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty missing a big check at center ice on Maxwell.
Kearns tied the game at 17:26 when he buried home a one-timer from on top of the crease after taking a centering feed from Tarasov, who was behind the IceCaps net. Doherty was credited with the secondary assist on the goal, which was Kearns' 18th of the season.
The Sharks regained the lead at 5:40 of the third period when center Jon Matsumoto beat Pasquale blocker side on a penalty shot for his 14th goal of the season. Kearns extended the lead to 4-2 at 7:33 when he beat Pasquale with a tip in from on top of the crease off a right corner pass from Sharks rookie Sebastian Stalberg. Tarasov was credited with the secondary assist on the goal, which was Kearns' second of the game and team leading 19th of the season.
IceCaps defenseman Will O'Neill cut the Sharks lead in half at 17:16 with his second goal of the season off a blast of a shot from the center point near the blue line that got through traffic in front and beat Greiss blocker side. With Pasquale pulled for an extra attacker, the IceCaps tied the game at 19:07 when Maxwell outworked Doherty to get positioning in front of Greiss and deflected in O'Neill's shot from the point for his eighth goal of the season.
In overtime, the IceCaps only needed 23-seconds to win the game as Maxwell beat Greiss glove side with a wrist shot from 40-feet out on the left side for his ninth goal of the season, seconds after Pasquale had stopped Sivak's shot on goal from the right face-off circle.
NOTES... Shots were 34-27 in favor of the Sharks... The Sharks went 0-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill... Greiss, who was loaned from San Jose on a conditioning assignment on March 28, is 0-1-0 with a 5.04 goals-against-average and .815 save percentage... Kearns had a game and team high five shots on goal... Sharks rookie defenseman Matt Tennyson was called up to San Jose shortly before the start of the game... Sharks defenseman/right winger Matt Pelech set the Sharks' single season record for most penalty minutes in a season with 212, beating Brennan Evans' record of 211 in the 2007-08 season... Matsumoto's penalty shot goal was the first Sharks penalty shot goal scored at the DCU Center since former Sharks captain Mike Moore scored one on March 14, 2010... Curt Gogol (inj), Brodie Reid (inj), Marek Viedensky (inj), Mike Brennan (scr), Lane Scheidl (scr) and Dane Walters (scr) did not dress for the Sharks... Walters was signed to an ATO by the Sharks on March 29... Sharks left winger Tommy Grant was reassigned to the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL on March 28... This was the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season... The Sharks went 2-1-1-0 against the IceCaps this season, are 13-13-2-4 at the DCU Center and 29-28-2-6 with 66 points overall... The Sharks are 0-4-1-1 all time against the IceCaps at the DCU Center.
1. Bracken Kearns - Sharks (2-1-3)
2. Ben Maxwell - IceCaps (2-1-3)
3. Will O'Neill - IceCaps (1-1-2)