HAMILTON — A long Manitoba Moose season ended with an amazingly quick goal in Monday’s night’s third overtime period.
Winnipeg’s Dustin Boyd chased down his own dump-in off the first faceoff and chopped the puck over Moose goalie Eddie Lack’s shoulder to give the Hamilton Bulldogs a 2-1 extra-time victory and their best-of-seven AHL North Division final 4-3.
The teams played more than eight games worth of time in the series. Monday’s result took more than 40 overtime minutes to decide.
Lack, who stopped 55 shots in Game 7, was disconsolate at the winning play. He lay sprawled on the ice for a long time after Boyd started the celebration in front of the sparse crowd.
Moose defenceman Chris Tanev had tried to cut off Boyd’s attempt and may have crossed up Lack’s view of the close-in try.
It was Lack’s best game of the series without question as Hamilton came with a more determined effort than the egg they laid in Sunday’s 1-0 loss in Game 6.
Moose defenceman Mark Flood also helped his goalie with a wonderful save in the first overtime when Lack was down and out.
Flood missed a few minutes of the second overtime after being drilled by Hamilton’s Andrew Conboy, but did return to the game before that period was finished.
It was the second overtime game of the series and Manitoba’s third of the playoffs.
The Moose beat Hamilton in Game 4 at home in the second extra period.
The lead, something Moose coach Claude Noel fervently hoped for on the morning of the game, materialized when Hamilton defenceman Brenden Nash shot the puck into the crowd from his own zone at 8:56 of the first period.
The Moose worked their first power play to an advantageous position to the right of Bulldogs goalie Drew MacIntyre, where Jason Jaffray laid a perfect pass on the stick of Sergei Shirokov.
Shirokov, parked at the edge of the crease, had only to redirect the puck four feet into the open side of the net.
From there, the Moose nursed the lead for more than 36 minutes, including the killing of four penalties.
But as the third period started to wear on, Hamilton’s top line of Nigel Dawes, Dustin Boyd and Aaron Palushaj took flight. It was Dawes, down the right wing, who took a snap shot from the top of the circle that was partially deflected by Moose defenceman Travis Ramsey.
Lack didn’t pick up the tipped puck right away and it caught the top corner of the net to bring the game to 1-1 with 13:36 left in the third.
Hamilton earned a berth in the AHL’s Western Conference final, beating the Moose for the fourth consecutive time in the playoffs.
And with all the uncertainty over the NHL possible future in Winnipeg, there are also questions about the Moose’s future in that equation.
If the Moose era is over, it will have ended with no championships in 15 years.
Overall since goalie Danny Lorenz outfoxed them in the shootout in their very first game Oct. 4, 1996 in Milwaukee, the Moose played 1,342 games (1,210 regular-season and 131 playoff) and earned 679 wins.
In bowing out in the second round, the Moose did so without five significant players. Forwards Cody Hodgson and Victor Oreskovich were recalled to Vancouver at the end of the regular season and defenceman Ryan Parent and forwards Joel Perrault and Rick Rypien were on the injury list.
Hamilton, on the other hand, had only the addition of Ryan White back from the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens as a significant roster issue for the series, an overall difference of six players for most of this series..
That’s a factor that’s wasn’t irrelevant — especially in the offensive department — though the Moose showed enormous persistence and depth to make the affair against Hamilton as dramatic as it was. Many, including the Bulldogs, were thinking about a walkover after Hamilton won the first two games on home ice.