What a spectacular return Wednesday night for Martin Simard, a four-year Golden Eagle veteran, who has been out 10 games with a hand injury.
Simard provided the trick on Halloween night, scoring in the first hat trick of his career, with a goal in each of the three periods. However, the Phoenix Roadrunners took home the treats with a 6-4 victory before 3,230 at the Salt Palace.Except for Simard's return to the lineup, it was a familiar scenario for the Eagles. They stayed close and were tied midway through the final period before losing. It marked their fifth straight loss at home and fourth in a row overall.
"There's a fine line between winning and losing," said Eagle Coach Bob Francis, who's remaining calm despite the string of frustrating losses. "We're working hard, but tonight we made a bad decision and gave up a bad goal."
Francis wasn't referring to just one bad decision, but to several by the defense. One resulted in a 2-on-0 breakaway in a short-handed situation and another in a 2-on-1 that iced the game with a little over two minutes remaining.
"Our defensemen made some bad decisions at key times," said Francis. "It's obvious in a streak like this, you can't put the blame on any particular persons. It's a team effort.
"We're going to have to learn how to win, we have to make something happen when the game is on the line."
Phoenix took a 2-1 lead after one period on goals by Chris Kontos and Kyosti Karjalainen. Simard got Salt Lake's goal, tipping in a shot by Darryl Olsen.
Kontos scored again earlier in the third period, but Rich Chernomaz tipped in another hard shot by Olsen on a power play. Then Simard made it 3-3, after getting a feed from his buddy Marc Bureau right in front of the net.
The killer was the Phoenix goal at the 15:50 mark when Steve Graves beat goalie Warren Sharples during a short-handed situation.
Simard's third goal tied it at 4-4 early in the third, before Brian Lawton scored twice on passes from Mickey Volcan.
"There's no use getting three goals, if it's the same result (loss)," said Simard. "We need 20 guys - we need everybody to win the game.
Francis was thrilled about Simard's return, saying, "It's good to have him back."
But like Simard, he hinted that everybody wasn't doing their job. "I wish every player would play with Martin's emotion," said Francis.
For Phoenix, Wednesday night's game marked the end of a 9-game road stand to open the season. The Roadrunners survived the grueling beginning with a 4-4-1 mark, which is what Coach Ralph Backstrom hoped for.
"It's good to go home with a .500 record," said Backstrom. "I really feel fortunate to have won this one."