Following a 7-2 home loss in game four, Chicago Wolves head coach John Anderson was asked if he was nervous heading into an ensuing do-or-die game five situation against the Rochester Americans.
“We just got beat 7-2 at home, so I’m not nervous at all,” said Anderson sarcastically Friday night.
Those nerves were intensified in the decisive game five after Rochester held a 2-1 lead nearing the conclusion of the second frame.
After Shane Harper scored the opening goal of the game just a few minutes in, the Americans responded with the next two and grabbed the lead. Both Rochester tallies came via the power play.
However, a late-second period surge from the Wolves sprung Chicago back into the lead and into the Western Conference semifinals, where they will face the Toronto Marlies.
“Sometimes you have to go through a little hell to get to heaven,” said Anderson.
Brent Regner found a loose puck in the slot after Michael Davies lost the puck on a wraparound attempt and sniped it past Rochester goaltender Andrey Marakov for the equalizer. The power play tally came with two minutes, 32 seconds to play in the period.
With just 26 seconds to play in the frame, again on the man-advantage, Dmitrij Jaskin tapped home a centering pass from the side of the net to put Chicago ahead.
“Nobody cared on our team who was going to score that one,” said Jaskin. “We just tried to play for each other.” Jaskin’s power play tally proved to be the game-winner, his second of the series.
“They kind of had us on the ropes there,” said Regner. “The power play came up huge.”
From there, it was all Jake Allen for the Wolves. The AHL’s most outstanding goaltender made a crucial pad save on a one-time attempt at the side of the net with the Wolves on the penalty kill to preserve what was then a 3-2 lead for Chicago. It was an impressive rebound performance for Allen after surrendering five goals on 17 shots in game four.
“I told myself after that I wasn’t going to allow them to score again,” said Allen.
Taylor Chorney added an empty net goal with a tick over one minute to play in the game and was mobbed in front of the Chicago bench before time ran out.
“They gave us all we could handle,” said Allen. “We closed it down when we needed to and that’s all that matters.”
Chicago improved to 8-3 all-time in postseason elimination games with the win.
Game one between the second-seeded Wolves and third-seeded Marlies will take place Friday night at Allstate Arena. The two teams split the season series, with each game being decided by a single goal.
“We’re going to have our hands full there,” said Allen. “It’s going to be a challenge but I’m sure the boys will be ready.”