SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Thunderbirds (8-4-0-0) scratched and clawed their way back from a third-period deficit and defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (5-4-1-1) in a shootout, 4-3, to pick up a sixth consecutive win.
The two teams matched up evenly in most areas through the opening 20 minutes, with each club generating 11 shots of offense against starting goaltenders Philippe Desrosiers for the Thunderbirds and veteran Dustin Tokarski for the Penguins.
The Thunderbirds got a quick start offensively for a second straight evening as Daniel Audette received a drop pass from Kevin Roy and fired a wrist shot through the wickets of Tokarski on the Thunderbirds' first shot of the night to make it 1-0 at 1:52.
Penalties began to bog down the game flow over the first ten minutes, with the two teams combining for five minor penalties and two different stints of 4-on-4 hockey. With a power play chance past the midpoint of the period, the Penguins came back to tie the game as Joe Blandisi deflected a point try past Desrosiers at 10:19 to tie the game on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's 10th power play goal of the year.
The Penguins continued pressuring into the closing minutes of the period, but Desrosiers ensured the Thunderbirds got to the intermission in a tie score with two splendid denials in the last 90 seconds. Joseph Cramarossa patiently curled the puck to the middle of the ice and snapped a shot against the grain, but Desrosiers batted it away with the blocker. With a rebound heading right to Anthony Angello's stick, Desrosiers got back in position and recovered to his left to stonewall the second chance as well.
Desrosiers would have to be the T-Birds' best player in the second period, as the Penguins outshot Springfield 14-3 in the middle 20 minutes. Springfield failed on a 5-on-3 chance to break the tie, as the Penguin penalty killers survived nearly 90 seconds of power play time from the T-Birds. However, the T-Birds netminder made sure the Penguins would not get a lead, as he answered chance after chance to keep the score tied.
The power play got a second chance to redeem itself in the closing minutes. Aleksi Saarela drew a minor penalty using his speed and agility in the neutral zone, then snapped a right circle wrist shot into the far side of the net with just 24 seconds left in the period to give the Thunderbirds the 2-1 lead into the intermission.
The Penguins responded to the late goal in the second with a pair of quick strikes early in the third. Stefan Noesen redirected a point shot past Desrosiers at the 2:53 mark of the third to tie the game. Just 20 seconds later, Blandisi added his second when he cashed in on a 3-on-1 rush to give the Penguins their first lead, 3-2.
Despite being outshot 30-10 in the final two periods, the Thunderbirds refused to go away, and they tied the game at 13:28 of the final period. Aleksi Heponiemi danced around a check at the left circle and somehow found Owen Tippett with a cross-ice pass, and Tippett blasted it home to force overtime with his sixth goal of the season. A heart-stopping overtime produced chances both ways, and Desrosiers came away with an outstanding, sprawling save with the pad with the game on the line.
Desrosiers got the game to a shootout, where he kept five of six attempts out of the net. At the other end, Henrik Borgstrom scored in the opening round, and Tippett finished off the sixth straight win by snapping a shot past Tokarski on the blocker side. With one stop needed to seal the win, Desrosiers kicked out a forehand shot by Angello to preserve the win.
With a chance to extend their win streak to a team-record seven games, the Thunderbirds take to the road to face Bridgeport on Wednesday morning in a school day matchup at 10:30 a.m.