It took a while, but the Manitoba Moose have a foothold in the Calder Cup final.
Jason Jaffray, scoreless in eight playoff games, erupted for three goals including the roof-raising winner with 46.9 seconds left in regulation time to power the Moose to a 3-1 victory to square the AHL’s championship series at 1-1.
The series now moves to Pennsylvania and Game 3 will be played at Hershey’s Giant Center on Saturday night.
A 1-1 game carried late into the third period when Manitoba’s top line broke from its own zone.
Centre Jason Krog crossed the blue-line and whipped a pass to his left to a streaking Jaffray, whose low shot went under the stick of Hershey goalie Michal Neuvirth and sending the 14,737 fans leaping from their seats.
Jaffray then smacked home the empty-net insurance with 9.9 seconds left and the Moose finally had their result.
Manitoba, now 13-5 in the playoffs, has lost just once in regulation time in 18 post-season starts. They dropped Game 1 on home ice, 5-4 in overtime.
Now the Moose will turn their attention to the task they have accomplished in every series so far — win on the road. It will be no easy task in Hershey, however, as the Bears attract loud and boisterous crowds in their home rink.
The Moose did well to survive the earlier minutes of the third period as referee Frederic L’Ecuyer whistled the only two penalties of the frame to the home team.
Successfully killing them both — the second by the width of the tape on their sticks — Manitoba righted its ship and started to press again in the final five minutes.
After several Hershey icing calls, Moose defenceman Max Fortunus and Krog initiated the winning rush.
The game slowly changed Manitoba’s way in the second period, when the Moose outshot the Bears 14-4.
The shift was also in part due to two penalties, this time both to Hershey, which helped the Moose gain some confidence with their puck-handling and their pressure.
And while the rebounds continued to fly out from Hershey goalie Michal Neuvirth’s crease, the Moose gained an equalizer and gave the crowd a reason to re-engage.
During Dean Arsene’s cross-checking penalty, the Manitoba attack forced a loose puck at Neuvirth’s right and when it popped back to his left, winger Jaffray was in the right spot to flip it high into the net.
The goal, at 7:59, was his seventh of the post-season but first in nine games.
The fast action of the first period opened two big chances for the Bears on one shift and Alexandre Giroux didn’t miss the second one, deking Cory Schneider when in alone.
The goal at 12:31, Giroux’s 13th of the playoffs, staked the visitors to the lead they couldn’t hold.
In Game 1, Hershey led for just 3:20 of action before winning in overtime.