The Wolves haven't won in Kitchener since 1995, it's been a long and perhaps incompetent at times haul for the Wolves, as the Rangers have failed to qualify once during that time frame and in another season lost a one-game playoff to be ousted from the playoffs prior to the beginning of the first round. Still, the Rangers found a way to win, sometimes it wasn't pretty and on this night that was not an exception. The Rangers after a pair of games to start the weekend against the Owen Sound Attack and then the Erie Otters, the long trip to Erie and back may have had a negative effect on the Rangers who've been rumoured to have had players suffering with flu symptoms. Fortunately, the Rangers were able to rest many of their top players late in their matchup against the hapless Otters, one that the Rangers had well in hand during the third, a period they entered leading 7-1. Their start against the much stronger Sudbury Wolves was the exact opposite of inspiring infront of a Sunday night crowd filled with 'Timbit' hockey players.
The Wolves weren't exactly having the easiest
weekend either. They had a trio of games where they ran into division
leaders from each of the Eastern Conference's top seeds. Both games
were tight losses and the Wolves haven't quite been the same since they
traded their top netminder Kevin Beech to the Otters, and though Beech
struggled against the Rangers surrendering 7 goals, the concensus seemed
to be that the Wolves had improved at the deadline by dumping their netminder
in favour of Justin Donati, one of the game's deadliest snipers.
The Wolves acquired a replacement for Beech, Sebastien Dahm from the Sarnia
Sting, neither team has been the same since the deal. The Rangers
started the first period in a complete funk. They seldomly could
create offensive pressure, and when they were able to, the Rangers couldn't
sustain it. In short after some chances from the Wolves through the
first period including a trio of power plays and a near one minute two-man
advantage, the Rangers were extremely fortuante to leave the first period
with a scoreless tie.
After escaping the first period without being scored on, the Rangers, Justin Donati struck with his 32nd of the season finally opening the scoring. It was only moments later that Foligno picked up a rebound and increased the lead to 2-0 for the Wolves. From that point onward the Wolves envoked the trap game and the Rangers while getting pucks to the net couldn't bring the required traffic in on Dahm who was having a very solid outing. Smaller events late in the period would shape the outcome of the game. Matt Pepe took an unnecessary interference penalty making an open-ice hit on a Wolves' player who clearly did not have the puck on a rush, and while already shorthanded Mike Duco burst in on goal and lost the puck but made tremendous contact on Wolves' netminder Sebastien Dahm. The collision and overall cool-headedness of the Wolves created a rather lengthy two-man advantage for the Wolves, their second of the game. John Murray and others came up with a strong effort on the penalty kill enabling the Rangers to stay within striking distance down by only a pair.
Akim Aliu, a rival of Steve Downie while the two played with the Spitfires took the opportunity to take a shot at Downie's head resulting in a minor penalty late in the period. It was a glorious opportunity for the Rangers to get back in the game, but appeared wasted as Justin Azevedo was victimized on the point while manning the power play, at the end of a near two-on-one Sudbury rush Azevedo took a cross-checking minor eliminating the Rangers' power play. Azevedo's teammates, who must respect him, picked him up though, Matt Halischuk came in four-on-four and managed to chip a wrister in over Dahm's shoulder. And then 26 seconds later, with only 3 seconds remaining in the period, Peter Tsimikalis infront of the net, and he tied the game, getting a huge rise out of the capacity crowd of 6,077. In the third period Victor Oreskovich scored his 7th goal in 4 games to lead the Rangers to victory. For the second time in two home games on the weekend Oreskovich was named the game's first star. His power play winner, the goal scored while on the man advantage in the game was the difference. Steve Downie's lengthy point-streak ended with a clang after his empty-net bid bounced off of the post as the Rangers held on in the final minutes to their 4-3 victory.