After his team escaped a late comeback by Milwaukee for a 5-3 victory, Eagle Coach Bob Francis commented, "There's a fine line between winning and losing."
That was never more evident than Wednesday night at the Salt Palace. The Admirals charged back from an early 4-goal deficit and apparently scored the game-tying goal with less than five minutes left, only to see it waved off by the officials.The Eagles then hung on and scored an empty-net goal in the waning seconds for the two-goal final margin.
Nobody was really sure what happened when the red light flashed on after an an Admiral player apparently put the puck past Warren Sharples.
"I guess the referee didn't see it because we had some guys come down from the stands and say it was in by a good foot and a half," said Milwaukee Coach Mike Murphy. "Somebody has to see it and obviously three guys out there didn't see it. But the goal judge saw it and turned the light on."
Salt Lake's Francis claimed he didn't know what happened "I can't make a remark on whether it was in or not."
The referee Don Adams said, "I'm not allowed to comment," because of league restrictions.
But one of his linesman, who apparently wasn't under the same restrictions said "the whistle had blown" before the puck went in.
Whether the whistle had blown or that was just an excuse - who knows? But the Eagles were awfully happy about the non-goal, because if it had counted, they likely wouldn't have won, the way the game was going.
The Eagles had not played well in a 6-2 loss to Phoenix Monday night and they looked like they were out to atone for that performance with perhaps their quickest start of the season.
Paul Kruse slapped in an unassisted goal just two minutes into the contest. Then at the 6-minute mark - Boom! Boom! - the Eagles scored twice in a 19-second span as Corey Lyons rebounded a shot and Kerry Clark stuck the puck in from just in front of the net.
It was 3-0 with nearly 54 minutes left, so the Admirals' Murphy quickly switched goalies, inserting Steve McKichan for shell-shocked Bob Mason.
McKichan allowed another goal by Lyons at the 13:25 mark of the first, but shut down the Eagles the rest of the way with an array of fine stops.
With Salt Lake unable to score, Milwaukee crept back into it, as Shawn Antoski scored three goals, the latter two in a 29-second span midway through the third period.
At that point, the Admirals had the Eagles back on their heels and all the momentum on their side. But they could never get the tying goal past Sharples, even though they did "unofficially."
Murphy blamed his team's sluggish start for the loss. "Our skate this morning was slow-paced and our start tonight was slow-paced. We put ourselves in a hole that was eventually insurmountable."
Although Francis was happy with the win, he was concerned about nearly blowing the game. "It's fine to say we got a couple of unfortunate bounces, but the point is we allowed them the opportunity to get back in it. When we have a team down we need a killer instinct."
The win was important for the Eagles, who moved back into second place in the IHL West with 54 points and 11 points ahead of fifth-place Milwaukee, which is struggling to make the playoffs (top four make it). The Eagles had lost four straight and six of their last eight before Wednesday.
"Hopefully this will get us going back in the right direction," said Francis.
The Eagles and Admirals meet again Friday in the Salt Palace at 7 p.m.