ORLANDO, Fla. — On the heels of their first loss in a month, the Florida Everblades got right back on the winning track with a 4-2 win over the Orlando Solar Bears on Thursday night at the Amway Center.
In the first of three meetings with Orlando (13-11-2-0, 28 pts.) over three nights, Florida (17-6-4-0, 38 pts.) set the tone with a goal just 32 seconds into the game and never trailed the rest of the way to earn its seventh win over its last eight games.
John McCarron helped set up the first tally with a hard-nosed effort in the offensive zone. After holding the puck in the zone, McCarron let a shot go from the left-wing wall. Orlando goaltender Martin Ouellette made the initial save, but Zach Nastasiuk picked up the rebound and slotted it past Ouellette to give the ‘Blades the initial strike and their fastest goal to start a game this year.
Florida tacked on its second of the night at the other end of the opening period. Justin Auger pulled the puck around Orlando defenseman Étienne Boutet as he crossed into the zone and then beat Ouellette with a forehand shot on the ensuing abbreviated breakaway to make it 2-0 with one minute, one second left in the first.
With his third goal in as many games, Ben Masella continued his hot stretch to push the ‘Blades ahead by three in the first 10 minutes of the second period. On a two-on-one rush into the offensive zone, John McCarron found Masella in the slot, and Masella snapped a one-time shot past Ouellette at the 7:26 mark of the second stanza.
Orlando responded and scored each of the next two goals to whittle the ‘Blades’ lead to just one. Curt Gogol slid a rebound past Florida netminder Jeremy Helvig with 12:16 gone in the second period to get the Solar Bears on the board, and Mitch Hults potted a power-play marker just 1:15 into the third to cut Florida’s edge to 3-2.
But the Everblades held firm down the stretch, including withstanding an Orlando power play in the last six minutes of the game, to earn their first win against the Solar Bears this season.
McCarron capped his three-point night with an empty-net goal to seal the win with 1:03 left in regulation.
After seeing just seven shots in the first period, Helvig faced 19 over the final two periods and finished with 24 saves in his fourth straight road win.
Florida will do battle with Orlando again on Friday night at the Amway Center. The game gets underway at 7 p.m. ET.
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The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes