WEST VALLEY CITY It had been a month since the Utah Grizzlies had won a game. They'd been 1-for-29 on the power play over their last seven games. They fell behind 3-1 by midway through Thursday's second period.
But this game felt different from the 12 straight losses, even in the pregame skate and even when they were down two goals, said Grizzly Rob Sirianni.
Utah had decided in the midday meeting that it would keep things simple, that each man was not to try to win the game himself.
"You just make a lot of simple plays," said Sirianni, who scored the game-winner, Utah's fourth goal in a 5-3 win over the Stockton Thunder in the E Center. "Instead of trying to beat guys one-one-one, you support your team. Tonight everyone was just keeping it simple."
And the Grizzlies (31-29-2-8) stuck to that game plan, even when things weren't looking that good. "It's been awhile since we were on the same page, that's for sure," said Sianni, whose score came at 4:22 of the third period to give Utah a 4-3 lead.
"It kinda feels weird, but we needed that one, two games left before the playoffs," said Ryan Kinasewich, who scored the first of Utah's four-goal comeback to cut Stockton's lead to 3-2 at 16:35 during a 4-on-4 session and then stole the puck at the Stockton blue line to put in the empty-net power-play goal that was the game's final score with 16 seconds left. He also had an assist on Scott Burt's game-tying goal at 18:46 of the second period.
"I knew it was going to come," Kinasewich said of Utah's first win since Feb. 29. "We just went through a bad period, weren't getting the bounces, and other teams were.
"We just stuck to the game plan and just executed a lot better tonight and fortunately scored four in a row there."
Stockton's Brian Lee started off the scoring at 15:53 of the first, but Justin Bourne, just back from AHL Bridgeport on Wednesday, scored on a power play at 18:13.
Then Stockton (26-40-2-2) scored the next two, including a power-play goal by Tim Verbeek at 11:02 of the second to make it 3-1, and when Olivier Labelle was stopped on a penalty shot with 9:45 left, it wasn't looking good. Verbeek played 11 games as a Grizzly in 2003, scoring a short-handed goal in his debut game. He is the brother of former NHLer Pat Verbeek.
But Jordan Hart made a play to get the puck to Kinasewich late in that second period, and something finally went right, and then it was a flood of goals for a team that needed it badly against an opponent that is still fighting to make it into the playoffs with just two games left in the regular season.
Those games for Stockton are tonight and Saturday against the Grizzlies in the E Center at 7 p.m. each night.
It was a trying streak for Grizzly coach Jason Christie, whose club qualified early for the playoffs and then fell on hard times. Finding a delicate balance between trying to prod his players and trying not to lose their attention wasn't easy."The guys have been working, and finally for the work they did to pay off tonight, I think it's a big thing because we've got these guys two more games," he said.