It was not very pretty, said Eagle Coach Bob Francis. Nor was it lucky, well played, or a win.
The Salt Lake Golden Eagles lost to the Phoenix Roadrunners, 6-2, Monday. Oh yes, nor was it the run-away that it appears.Salt Lake was, in fact, in the game right up to the last five minutes, thanks to the goaltending of Steve Guenette. And, were it not for a couple of unlucky ricochets, Francis may have been calling this a not-so-pretty win, but at least smiling.
The game was the first home appearance in 19 days and a tough road swing in which the Eagles lost five of seven and three of the last three. They will now play 11 of the next 14 at home. This, however, was not a good home start for Salt Lake.
The game started out right. Marc Bureau scored with an assist from recently-returned Tim Sweeney and Martin Simard at one minute, 17 seconds into the game. Phoenix tied it 15 minutes later with what was its only full-strength, straight-away goal of the night.
Salt Lake went ahead 6:32 into the second period on a goal by Sweeney with assists from Bureau and Simard. Phoenix tied it again at 11:43 on a shot by Brian Lawton that Guenette saved, but came feebly back off the blade of a skate or stick.
Then the game turned. Former Eagle Rick Hayward caught Sweeney in the face with his stick. He was removed from the game with a game misconduct and a five-minute penalty. Sweeney's injury kept him off the ice the rest of the game. Peter Prajsler of Phoenix was then hit with a crosschecking penalty 90 seconds later. For two minutes the Eagles had a five-on-three and for three minutes a five-on-four. Salt Lake should have scored, but didn't.
"That was certainly a turning point," offered Francis. "We had the opportunity to gain the momentum, but instead we gave it to them. They kept us on the perimeter and we didn't penetrate."
Then, with half the third period gone, Sylvain Couturier hit one from the left corner near the blueline that should have been an an easy save. Instead, it hit the edge of Guenette's stick and bounced in.
Two minutes later, Stephane Richer lobbed one at the net that hit the shoulder pad of a player and fell in the net. Three minutes later Kyosti Karjalainen slapped one in from the left on a five-on-three power play. The final goal came when Francis pulled Guenette in desperation and Sean Whyte hit one the length of the ice the went in the unattended goal.
And so ended the game in an avalanche of scoring that had for 50 minutes been close.
"Thanks to Steve (Guenette)," added Francis, "As a group we were bad. Very disappointing. One of my most disappointing loses. Steve was the only thing that made us look good. We were bad and you can't fault Steve."
Guenette had kept the Eagles in the game through the first two periods. In the first he turned away 16 of 17 shots, and in the second 17 of 18. Only one other time this year has a team shot a higher number of shots in the opening period. By comparison, Salt Lake shot only 22 for the two periods.
The Eagles will play Milwaukee on Wednesday and Friday in the Salt Palace. The Eagles have yet to beat the Admirals in three tries this year.
Before those games, though, Francis said he is going to make some changes. He wouldn't say exactly where.
"I can tell you we won't look this bad again," he offered very matter-of-factly.