Alex Burmistrov scored his first career American Hockey League goal to give the St. John’s IceCaps an 8-7 come-from-behind victory over the Portland Pirates on Tuesday night at Mile One Centre.
The teams combined for 15 goals and 76 shots in the contest, including four goals in the first 2:24 of the third period.
Ben Maxwell led the IceCaps with a goal and two assists while Eddie Pasquale came on in relief of starter Mark Dekanich and made 18 saves on 19 shots to pick up the win. Spencer Machacek and Eric O’Dell scored two goals apiece and Telegin, Will O’Neill and Derek Meech all recorded two assists.
Rob Klinkhammer notched a hat trick and five points for Portland, while Johnson took the loss stopping 22 of 30 shots fired his way.
“It was a wild one,” O’Dell said after the game.
Portland got things going quickly, scoring just 33 seconds after the opening faceoff on a goal by Klinkhammer. Alexandre Bolduc led a Portland rush from the right side, passing to Jordan Szwarz. The right winger’s shot was stopped by Dekanich before Klinkhammer pounced on the rebound.
Rebounds would continue to haunt the IceCaps starting netminder. On the Pirates’ second goal, Dekanich made the initial save but couldn’t find the rebound. Evan Brophey shovelled it home to make it 2-0 just 3:28 into the opening frame.
St. John’s drew within one on a nice play by Maxwell that was finished off by Machacek. Maxwell went wide and beat his man after gaining the Pirates’ zone, feeding a pass out front that came right to Machacek. The Lethbridge, Alta., native quickly fired a wrist shot that beat Johnson on the glove side to cut the lead to 2-1.
The IceCaps tied the game with just 15 seconds left in the first on Jason King’s first goal of the season. Burmistrov burst in on goal and slipped a pass across to the Corner Brook, N.L., native, who went skate-to-stick and lifted a shot over the right shoulder of Johnson and sendt the teams to the dressing rooms knotted at two apiece.
At the 3:50 mark of the second, the Pirates once again took the lead as Klinkhammer notched his second goal of the night on yet another rebound. Dekanich made the initial save but the puck came out behind him in the crease where Klinkhammer was waiting for the easy tap in, giving the visitors a 3-2 advantage.
Portland restored its two-goal lead at 13:01 of the second after an unfortunate bounce in the Pirates’ zone led to a breakaway by leading scorer Chris Conner. Conner’s initial attempt was stopped by Dekanich but nobody picked up the trailing Andy Miele, who tapped the loose puck into the net for a 4-2 Pirates lead.
The see-saw affair continued as the IceCaps drew to within one goal on Jason Gregoire’s first of the season. O’Neill made a beautiful pass from behind the red line to spring Gregoire, who with two steps was all alone behind the Pirates defence. Gregoire made no mistake in burying a wrist shot high on the blocker side of Pirates netminder Johnson to make it 4-3.
Just as it looked like the IceCaps were gaining momentum, the Pirates silenced the crowd once again. Klinkhammer picked up his fourth point of the night when he made a perfect stretch pass to Chris Brown, whose penalty had just expired. Brown went in all alone and snapped a shot that cleanly beat Dekanich high on the blocker side, making it 5-3 Portland heading into the third period.
The third frame proved to be perhaps the wildest period of hockey in the IceCaps’ brief history. St. John’s pulled within one on a power play that carried over from the second period when Ben Maxwell snapped a wrist shot into the top corner of the net just 50 seconds in. Then, after Conner took a tripping call to put the IceCaps right back on the power play, O’Dell notched his first of the season when he picked up a loose puck off the faceoff and wristed a shot past Johnson, tying the game at 5-5.
However, just eight seconds later, Portland regained the lead when Bolduc’s shot appeared to go through Dekanich, making it 6-5 and ending the goaltender’s night.
O’Dell scored his second of the game less than a minute later when he deflected Meech’s floater from the point, knotting the game once again, this time at six each.
Klinkhammer completed the hat trick for Portland at 9:44 of the third on a beautiful finish after a tape-to-tape cross-ice pass from Bolduc. Klinkhammer smashed a one-timer just under the bar for his fifth point of the night, giving the Pirates a 7-6 advantage.
The tying goal came off the stick of Machacek, who scored shorthanded at 11:45 of the final frame on a clear-cut breakaway. Machacek went to the backhand and slid the puck through the legs of Johnson for his second tally of the night, eventually sending the game to overtime.
“We were talking before the game about a breakaway and five-hole was what I was thinking about,” Machacek said following the game. “I played with (Johnson) in junior, and it’s not that he’s weak there, but I just decided to go five-hole.”
Burmistrov’s winner at 1:03 of overtime, high over Johnson’s glove hand, gave the IceCaps their second home victory of the season in three games.
The IceCaps and Pirates take to the ice again Wednesday for the second of their two-game set.