Thoroughblades Corner: Fitzgerald nets late winner in controversial win over Heat

Much like a good race at the Kentucky Derby, the Thoroughblades’ race to the finish line at the SAP Center on Saturday night was not without some controversy.

Cavan Fitzgerald’s snapshot over the right shoulder of goaltender Tyler Parsons at 7:57 of the third period will be remembered as the game winner in a 4-2 victory for the San Jose Barracuda, playing on Saturday as the Kentucky Thoroughblades, over the Stockton Heat. But it was the team’s opening goal, provided by ‘Cuda defenseman Kyle Wood, that’ll draw the attention of the American Hockey League.

After a first period where San Jose had badly outpaced Stockton in possession and outshot them 15-5, the Barracuda power play hit the ice with Anthony Peluso in the box for slashing Jeremy Roy. As the clock wound down, Fitzgerald set up Wood for a one-timer that ripped past Parsons and seemed to cross the goal line as the buzzer sounded.

After the refs conferred and checked the scorer’s table monitor, the play was ruled a good goal. However, further inspection of AHL TV’s broadcast footage seems to show the puck was still going through the crease when the horn sounded.

Nonetheless, with no coaches’ challenges or use of the goal line cameras allowed at the AHL level, the goal stood and lit an immediate fire under Cail MacLean’s squad. Stockton came to life in the second period, peppering Antoine Bibeau with 25 shots over the final two frames.

As the game crossed the midway point, Peluso got his revenge, taking a pass from Curtis Lazar and flicked a shot that deflected off of Bibeau’s glove and under the crossbar to tie the game with his third goal of the season. But just over four minutes later, Evan Weinger returned the favour when he deked out the entire Heat roster and threw a perfect shot past Parson’s glove to restore the lead after two periods.

But the Heat continued to press in the third period and eventually Ryan Lomberg found a streaking Spencer Foo with a stretch pass. Foo alertly fought off Keaton Middleton, cut to the net and flipped the puck over Bibeau’s glove to tie the game at two with a power play marker.

Fitzgerald netted the winning goal just a few minutes after Foo’s tally, stepping out of the penalty box and picking up a perfect pass from Dylan Gambrell before blowing the puck by Parsons’ blocker. The goal was not only vindicating for the Boston native defensemen, but also a funny moment thanks to a conversation he’d had moments before with the penalty box attendant.

“I was pretty pissed that I took a penalty there in the third period, but me and the guy in the box were talking and he said he wants me to get out and score on a breakaway and I did it. I tried to point at him and Gams [Gambrell] after,” Fitzgerald said with a laugh.

Jonathan Martin provided the insurance empty net goal with just over a minute remaining, sealing a weekend sweep against their arch-rivals and two more points in the Pacific Division race.

The Barracuda will try to extend their winning streak to three when they host the Iowa Wild on Tuesday at 7 p.m.