St. John’s, NL — Blake Winiecki scored with only 3:18 left in regulation to help send the Florida Everblades to a 5-4 win over the Newfoundland Growlers on Wednesday night at Mile One Centre.
With Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals tied at four in the last four minutes of regulation. Winiecki picked up a rebound at the right side of the net and slapped it past Newfoundland netminder Michael Garteig to put the ‘Blades ahead for good in their first win of the series.
Florida then killed off a penalty assessed to Ben Masella with 2:42 left in the game, and goaltender Callum Booth made a series of saves in the last 10 seconds to whittle the ‘Blades series deficit to 2-1.
Newfoundland’s Scott Pooley started the scoring with a shot off a sharp angle from the right-wing corner, sneaking the puck through the five-hole of Booth only 2:32 into the game.
But the ‘Blades responded to take their first multi-goal lead of the series with three straight tallies, a string of goals started by Michael Downing. With the puck at the left point, Downing hammered a shot over the glove hand of Garteig at the 8:52 mark of the first.
Then, just after the ‘Blades first power play of the night expired, Downing helped created the second goal. His shot from the top of the right circle found its way to Matt Finn, who deflected it in from between the circles exactly five minutes after Downing’s tally.
Florida surged ahead by two goals late in the first on Michael Neville’s first goal of the postseason. Tommy Thompson battled to keep the puck in the zone and pushed it behind the net. He recovered possession in the right circle and sent a no-look feed from his backhand to the top of the crease to Neville who, with his stick tied, managed to tip it past Garteig with 3:14 left in the opening period.
The Growlers got back within two when Brady Ferguson capitalized on a turnover only 2:44 into the second period. An errant pass behind the ‘Blades net found its way to Ferguson at the bottom of the right circle, and he promptly put it over Booth to make it a 3-2 game.
Florida again had an answer thanks to their leading goal scorer in the postseason. After Joe Cox’s shot on a zone rush was blocked, Patrick McCarron got a piece of the rebound to chip it back on goal. Winiecki found the second rebound and banked it in off a host of bodies in front of Garteig for his first of the night.
Again, the Growlers trimmed the deficit to one on the second of the night from Pooley. With Booth sprawling to his left to cover up the puck, the Growlers nudged it behind the net to the right post and Pooley tapped it in with 12:24 gone in the second period to turn it into a 4-3 game.
Giorgio Estephan netted a power-play goal for the Growlers only 31 seconds into the third period to bring the game even for the first time since the opening period.
Booth stood tall the rest of the way and finished with 25 saves in his seventh win of the postseason.
Winiecki’s game-winning goal was the second-latest game-winning goal in regulation this season for Florida. The latest game-winning goal in regulation came from Joe Cox with 3:06 left in the third period of a 4-2 win over Jacksonville on Nov. 9.
The series takes a day off on Thursday before resuming with Game 4 on Friday at Mile One Centre. Faceoff is slated for 5:30 p.m. ET.
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