HAMILTON 2, MANITOBA 1 (3OT)
Winnipeg native Dustin Boyd scored six seconds into the third overtime period on Monday, ending the longest Game 7 in the AHL’s 75-year-history and sending the Hamilton Bulldogs to a thrilling 2-1 win over the Manitoba Moose at Copps Coliseum in the decisive game of the North Division Finals.
Hamilton, the top affiliate of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, advances to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight spring. The Bulldogs will battle the winner of another Game 7, as Milwaukee is set to host Houston on Tuesday night to decide the West Division playoff champion.
This was the 17th Game 7 in league history to go to overtime but the first to extend to a second overtime, let alone a third.
Boyd, who began the 2010-11 season in Montreal, scored the game-winner unassisted. He won the opening draw of the third overtime forward, dumped the puck in, skated around a defenseman, and swatted his own carom off the end boards over the shoulder of Manitoba rookie goaltender Eddie Lack.
It marked the first goal of the playoffs for Boyd, who had contributed seven assists through Hamilton’s first 12 postseason contests.
The goal also vindicated a relentless attack by Hamilton, which outshot Manitoba 24-14 in the overtime periods and 57-30 for the game overall.
But it was the Moose who got on the board first at 10:09 of the opening period when their top line converted a power play opportunity. Two-time AHL All-Star Sergei Shirokov buried his seventh goal of the postseason, with assists going to Jason Jaffray and Marco Rosa.
Lack and Manitoba withstood a 15-4 shots disadvantage in the second period to maintain that slim edge, but the Bulldogs finally broke through to tie it up in the third when Nigel Dawes – also a native of Winnipeg – notched his team-leading ninth of the playoffs at 6:24.
That would be all the scoring for more than two full periods of play, although both teams hit posts and had numerous other quality chances to end the series in the overtimes before Boyd finally cashed in.
Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre earned the victory with 29 saves on 30 shots, while Lack, the AHL’s All-Rookie netminder for 2010-11, concluded a phenomenal campaign by stopping 55 of 57 shots.
Manitoba, the AHL’s runner-up in 2009, had entered the night with a perfect 4-0 record in potential elimination games this spring, and the 22-year-old Lack submitted a shutout performance in two of those four victories.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, avoided losing Games 6 and 7 of a playoff series on home ice for a second straight year, having suffered that fate last year to the Texas Stars in the Western Conference Finals.
North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. N3-Manitoba Moose || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 28 – HAMILTON 4, Manitoba 1
Game 2 – Sun., May 1 – HAMILTON 4, Manitoba 2
Game 3 – Tue., May 3 – MANITOBA 5, Hamilton 4
Game 4 – Wed., May 4 – MANITOBA 2, Hamilton 1 (2OT)
Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – Hamilton 5, MANITOBA 1
Game 6 – Sun., May 8 – Manitoba 1, HAMILTON 0
Game 7 – Mon., May 9 – HAMILTON 2, Manitoba 1 (3OT)