Here's a question for the Manitoba Moose: Where the heck did that come from?
After all, this was a team trailing the best-of-seven North division final 2-0 to the Hamilton Bulldogs, who'd beaten them eight straight. Late in the second period in Game 3, they were trailing the crucial match 2-1.
Worse, the underdog Moose were a woeful 0-for-12 on the power play against the Bulldogs. For all the world, they looked like dead men skating. The golf course was calling.
Then it happened.
With just 39 seconds left in the second period, defenceman Mark Flood directs a harmless looking shot on net, which turns into a juicy rebound for teammate Jordan Schroeder. Boom, a 2-2 tie.
It gets more unlikely. With just 1.9 seconds left in the period, the Moose go on power play No. 13. Fat chance, right? But low and behold if Manitoba's Marco Rosa doesn't win the draw cleanly to Sergei Shirokov, who in the blink of an eye wires a shot that beats Hamilton goaltender Drew MacIntyre cleanly.
Apparently, in less than 1.9 seconds.
Power play No. 14?
It ended successfully, just 15 seconds in, when Rosa flips a loose puck over a sprawling MacIntyre just 4:40 into the third period, providing the Moose with a commanding 4-2 lead enroute to a desperately needed 5-4 victory.
What an extreme makeover for a hockey team that appeared so offensively challenged for the first seven periods of this series. In fact, heading to Winnipeg the Moose were being outskated, outshot, out-changed and certainly out-matched by the Bulldogs.
Again, what happened?
"I don't know," offered Moose forward Jason Jaffray, who for the first time in this series was smiling at the final buzzer. "Coming back to our own barn we had to have a lot of energy. This was a must-win game. It was a desperate hockey team tonight. Getting those two goals in the last minute of the (second) period there really lit our fire for the third."
Did we say the Moose entered Game 3 on a pitiful 2-for-42 clip on the power play? Not anymore.
"I don't think our power play has been doing a whole lot of things wrong," Jaffray insisted. "We just haven't got a lot of bounces. I mean, finally something went in for us. I think we've been doing a lot of things right, but hit a lot of posts and crossbars. Eventually they were going to go in if we stuck to it."
The exclamation point for Manitoba was the decisive fifth goal, a tic-tac-toe passing play from Rosa to Shirokov to Jaffray, who scored his third of the season into a gaping Hamilton net with just 2:17 left in regulation. It was a display of creativity and skill that had so characterized the Bulldogs' offensive dominance up until Game 3.
Suddenly, a series that seemed so lopsided is for the taking, with Game 4 and Game 5 scheduled for Wednesday and Friday night at the MTS Centre.
It's not rocket surgery, either. The Moose simply weren't going to upset the favoured Bulldogs going zero-fer with the man advantage, much less failing to bury their chances while even strength.
"It was something that we talked about before the game, that we needed to step up on the power play," offered Manitoba's Alex Bolduc, who notched his third of the playoffs to give the Moose a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. "It worked out pretty well."
As for the personality makeover after the first two games in Hamilton, Bolduc replied: "I can't really explain it, but it's nice to play at home. Get the hits in and get the crowd into it. It gives us a little more life. It gives us a little more boost for sure.
"Definitely, our backs were against the wall. But we don't need that to motivate ourselves. If that's the case, we're going to be in trouble later on, too. It's just that we needed to come up big and we did. It's simple."