In their two playoff games, the Utah Grizzlies have shown they are plenty capable of both building and blowing a big lead against the Kansas City Blades.
Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Utah defenseman Jeff Sharples made sure that routine didn't come back to haunt them on Monday as it did in Game 1.Sharples' goal with 33 seconds remaining in Game 2 gave the Grizzlies a critical 4-3 victory Monday night at the E Center.
In knotting the first-round best-of-five series at one game apiece, the Grizzlies benefited from a much better special-teams outing than in last Wednesday's poor showing. They scored two shorthanded goals, two power-play goals and only allowed K.C. one score in its 10 power-play attempts.
"I hate to use the words `must win,' " said Utah coach Butch Goring, "but that was about as close as you get to that."
Utah played like it had to win most of the way, going up 2-0 after one period and holding a seemingly comfortable 3-1 edge with just over five minutes left in the game.
Twenty-two seconds later, however, the Grizzlies found themselves in a load of trouble.
With 5:10 remaining, Utah defenseman Gord Dineen was penalized for covering the puck with his hand while it was partially in the crease, resulting in a penalty shot for the Blades. K.C. defenseman Claudio Scremin took the free shot and snuck the puck by Grizz goalie Philippe DeRouville, who got the start after returning to Utah from Hartford on Sunday.
"The referee has got to (be gutsy) to make that call," said DeRouville, who played for the Grizzlies for the first time in over a month.
Before DeRouville had time to shake off the penalty shot, he was faced with another one-on-one situation. This time it was Blades' winger Dean Sylvester who broke loose from the pack and backhanded a shot past DeRouville to tie the game at 3-all.
"That wasn't what we had planned," Goring said of the Blades' quick comeback. "We had the game well in hand until the penalty shot. . . . Obviously K.C. put the pedal to the metal at the end of the game."
A few minutes later, the Grizzlies got the break they desperately needed when Kansas City winger Dave Chyzowski, a former Salt Lake Golden Eagle, picked the wrong time to slash Dineen. Goring called Chyzowski's penalty "equal-ly as dumb" as an earlier one Utah center Kip Miller committed that led to the tying goal. He wasn't complaining, though, because it came at the 18:02 mark and allowed Utah to at least finish out regulation on a power play.
The Grizzlies made the Blades pay as left winger Niklas An-ders-son connected on a pass to Sharples, who smacked in a 35-foot slapshot from the point for the game-winning goal.
"My shot hit a stick and went in," Sharples said. "We were fortunate to get the win."
The Grizzlies weathered one final storm after the Blades pulled goalie Pokey Reddick for the last half-minute. DeRouville made several of his 35 saves in the closing seconds.
"He made a lot of key saves," Goring said of his new No. 1 goalie. "He gave his team a chance to win the game. That's all you can ask from a goalie."
Andersson tallied a power-play goal and Miller added a shorthanded score as the Grizzlies took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Kansas City should have been credited with a goal in the opening period, but the red light didn't go on when Dale Craigwell's shot hit the back of the net and popped out. The on-ice officials couldn't verify the goal, either, so it wasn't counted.
Chyzowski trimmed the lead to 2-1 early in the second period, but Utah defenseman John Namest-ni-kov put the Grizz back up by two goals when he scored a shorthanded goal a few minutes later.
The series moves to Kansas City's Kemper Arena this weekend for games on Friday and Saturday.
"It's a best-of-three series now," Sharples said. "We've got to go in their building and find a way to win."
BLADES VS. GRIZZ
Series tied 1-1
K.C. 4, Utah 3
Game 2 - Today
Utah 4, K.C. 3
Game 3 - Friday
Utah at K.C., 6:30 p.m.
*Game 4 - April 25
Utah at K.C., 6:30 p.m.
*Game 5 - April 27
K.C. at Utah, 7 p.m.