Forward Mario Lamoureux broke open a tie game with less than 5 minutes remaining in regulation Wednesday night at CenturyLink Arena. The goal lifted the Ontario Reign to a 2-1 victory over the Idaho Steelheads in Game 3 of their ECHL Western Conference semifinal series.
Idaho took away the home-ice advantage by splitting the first two games of the series in Ontario last week. The Reign recaptured that advantage, and now lead the series 2-1.
"That was our game," said Steelheads coach Brad Ralph, whose club scored first. "We should have won that game. Everyone in the whole arena knew that we controlled the majority of the play."
Game 4 is Friday night and Game 5 in Saturday night, both at CenturyLink Arena. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be played in California next week.
Throughout the regular season, and in the first round of the playoffs, Ralph remained mostly positive after both wins and losses.
Frustration boiled over Wednesday after his team fell behind in a series for the first time in the postseason.
"Your best players have to be your best players, and we're not getting that," Ralph said. "Right from start to finish, that was our game. We had goaltending, we had defense. We had momentum, for the most part, unless there was a penalty called. But the forwards are just not getting it done. They're not good enough."
Ralph didn't hesitate to single out a few players.
"(Austin Smith) is not playing well, there's no doubt about it. He's got to be better," Ralph said. "Our top two lines are not getting it done. (Chase) Schaber's line, they continue to get scored on. (Adrian) Foster's line should be our top line; they're not scoring. They know it. Everyone knows it."
And now the theme of the series appears to be whether Idaho can get its offense in gear. Idaho was shut out in Game 2 and it has gone 0-for-8 on the power play in the first three games of the series.
If Idaho can't putting more goals in net, pencil in Ontario goalie Jean-Francois Berube as the unofficial series MVP. Berube came into Wednesday's game tied for first in the ECHL playoffs in save percentage (.938), and second in wins (five) and goals-against average (1.47).
"I thought (Berube) gave us a chance to win the game, and we were able to find the back of the net there in the third," Reign coach Jason Christie said.
But Idaho got to Berube, who stopped the other 28 shots he faced, early in the contest, as defenseman Patrick Cullity scored from above the left circle after a faceoff 4 minutes, 37 seconds into the first period.
Cullity racked up the airline miles this season as he went back and forth between the AHL and the Steelheads. Fittingly, Cullity flew across the continent again this week as he returned to Idaho from St. John's of the AHL. He landed in Boise at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
"I was able to settle in, get some food and get my mind set for some playoff hockey," Cullity said.
Through two periods, it looked like Cullity's score might hold up. Idaho maintained its lead as goalie Josh Robinson stymied everything Ontario threw at him.
The Reign got on the board less than 2 minutes into the third period, when Adrian Van de Mosselaer's shot from near the blue line found its way through traffic and past Robinson, who stopped 21-of-23 shots.
Then Lamoureux's goal surprised Idaho's defense, and the Steelheads were unable to send the game to overtime. All three of Idaho's home wins over Colorado in the opening-round series went to overtime, but there would be none of that extra-period magic Wednesday.
"You've got to score more than one goal," Ralph said. "And the onus isn't on scoring goals. The onus is on playing, being effective and doing what you do best. The goals will come if you do that. But if you're nervous and putting pressure on yourself about scoring goals, then you're not playing the right type of hockey. But we'll figure it out."