The old hockey adage, it ain't over, till it's over. It couldn't have been more true than it was last night when the Rangers stormed back into the game after going down 2 goals late in regulation to force overtime. . . . and that folks is why it's never, never a good idea to leave the game early. For the Rangers it was their first crack at things with Eric Pfligler in goal, the dimunitive Rangers' netminder had never started a postseason game until this night where he was forced into duty after an injury prematurely ended Dan Turple's night in Kitchener in game 3 which was played in Kitchener. Despite any momentum gained by their early overtime win in Kitchener the Rangers still had a substantially uphill climb, game 4 is usually somewhat of a pivot game, either the series is tied 2-2 or one team can take a commanding 3-1 series lead. For the Rangers it was also their last crack at the Otters before Michael Blunden's return to the lineup scheduled for Friday night in Kitchener after serving a 10-game suspension for throwing a stick into the crowd while on home ice in Erie. The target was very obvious for Erie checkers, Michael Richards the catalyst for the big come-from-behind overtime win in Kitchener with a pair of goals including the winner and also a pair of assists. The Rangers were still providing extra attention for Geoff Platt who to date still has yet to score.
As the Rangers did in the previous game, the
Otters came out flying on home ice, directing many shots at Pfligler who
had to be sharp early and going on the man advantage, actually a shortened
two-man advantage that the Otters failed to score on. The Rangers
followed up with an abbreviated two-man advantage of their own but were
unable to capitalize as well. A struggling powerplay was a theme
all-night long for the Rangers who struggled with the Otters' aggresive
penalty kill. Perhaps the best chance of the period was had by Geoff
Platt who enjoyed a shorthanded breakaway, but lost his footing on the
poor ice in Erie and wasn't able to get much of a shot off as Matt Lashoff
was able to close in, and nulify the scoring chance. Early in the
second period David Herring opened up the scoring with his 3rd goal in
4 games, this one came on the powerplay through a screen infront of Eric
Pfligler, at the other end of the ice Michael Richards was getting the
opportunities but failing to execute. Herring only scored 3 goals
during the entire regulation schedule.
The Rangers continued to struggle offensively, the chances, and plenty of shots were there for the taking but they just couldnt' beat Disher and at times were simply guilty of beating themselves by missing the net, or struggling with bouncing pucks. Ryan O'Marra increased the lead to 2-0 later in the second period, his goal was very similar to Herring's accept that it was a tip in on a Geoff Platt powerplay point shot that beat Pfligler five-hole. As much as Pfligler wasn't walking on water he was providing some very, very solid netminding for the Rangers the issue was the total lack of offense by the boys in blue. In the third period with the threat of being down 3 games to 1 the Rangers really started taking it to the Otters. David Clarkson who's struggled in scoring on Disher all season long thought that he had wrapped the puck in but it was ruled that the he didn't get the puck all of the way over the goal line. With only five minutes left Patrick Davis had a spectacular chance after charging through the Erie defenders but couldn't beat Disher's glove hand. With just under 4 minutes left in regulation and the two teams poised to go 4-on-4 DeBoer called a timeout and for the second time in two visits to Erie elected to pull Eric Pfligler very early in the game. With Pfligler on the bench the Rangers had the equivalent of a 5-on-4 powerplay, something that they had failed to score on in 9 previous opportunities on this night. Only 19 seconds later Evan McGrath managed to slide the puck under Disher after a goalmouth scramble bringing the Rangers back to within one goal.
The Rangers pressed in the final minutes of regulation before being forced into a situation to pull their netminder again with just over a minute left this time Andre Benoit got some quality time at the point to put a clean shot on goal, the rebound resulted in a second goal for McGrath (the game's #3 star). Both the Rangers and Otters exchanged chance to conclude a third period thoroughly dominated by the Rangers who outshot the Otters 21-7! The overtime was simply filled with penalties, 9 minors in total resulting in one Otters powerplay which was killed off by the Rangers. The game ended on a flukey play with the Rangers clearing the puck around the board and it making an odd hop directly out infront of the net while Disher was waiting for it along the boards, Clarkson backed the puck into the empty net falling over Disher who was in the process of diving back into his net and that was that, the Rangers drew even. All of the game's five goals were scored at the same end of the ice. The Rangers gave the Otters a franchise-record 58 shots against on home ice. The Otters powerplay was 2 for 6, until overtime both team's leading goal scorers: David Clarkson and Geoff Platt were both scoreless in the series.