As the shots kept mounting, the Skipjacks were getting more and more nervous.
Despite holding an enormous advantage in opportunities -- at one point the shots read 38-8 -- the Jacks were trailing the Capital District Islanders, 5-4, two minutes into the final period last night at the Arena.
The baby Isles weren't getting many chances, but they were quite opportunistic when they did, beating Jacks goalie Olaf Kolzig on three of their first five shots.
But the patience and persistence of the Jacks paid off late in the game, when the Isles' backup goalie Dave Lorentz faltered, allowing two soft shots to go between his legs as the Jacks backed into a 7-5 victory. The Isles' No. 1 netminder, George Maneluk, was injured on the Jacks' second goal at 6:51 of the second period.
Most agreed it was a "strange hockey game," in the words of Jacks coach Robbie Laird, one that was punctuated by a bevy of clutch-and-grab penalties and six power-play goals.
As the one-sided shootout became fierce in the final period, an unlikely hero came forth to save the Jacks. Right wing Thomas Sjogren, a Swedish import who quietly had six goals in the first 22 games, got three more last night, including the game-tying fifth at 2:35 of the third period.
"I've really been struggling so this kind of showing makes me pretty happy," said Sjogren, who had 36 goals in as many games three years ago in Frolunda, Sweden. "I've been shooting a lot but I don't think I've done as much scoring as the coach and management expected."
Sjogren has been the 10th man (or odd man out) in the Jacks' offensive scheme for a few weeks, substituting on lines whenever Laird could squeeze him in. Last night, it was a knee injury to converted right wing Tyler Larter that landed him on the Reggie Savage-Alfie Turcotte line for the remainder of the game.
Turcotte, along with offensive defenseman Chris Felix, reaped the benefits of the switch, as Turcotte got four assists and Felix had five.
"It's nice to get new guys in there chipping in some goals to take the pressure off of Alfie, who has had to carry the load lately," Felix said.
Turcotte, who has a team-leading 31 assists, said his first instinct is always to pass the puck to the wing.
"My wings should be getting more goals than me," Turcotte said. "Sometimes I look up and I have two or three guys on me so I know someone else out there must be open. It's just a matter of getting it to him."
On the defensive side, the Jacks were tenacious at times, sacrificing the body to clear the puck before the Islanders set up in the zone.
Capital District had just 16 shots for the game -- three in the first period, five in the second and eight in the third.
Many times goalies say it's hard to concentrate when they aren't getting action -- somehow justifying the awful save percentage -- but Kolzig offered no excuses.
"I played the puck a lot when it came back behind the net so it wasn't as if I wasn't into the game," he said. "Sometimes the muscles in your legs relax, but I never really got tested."
The defensemen were quick to come to Kolzig's defense.
"We didn't give them many chances but the few they had were quality opportunities," Felix said. "There were a couple of point-blank shots, crazy deflections, power plays, you name it. Olie didn't give up any soft goals."
The goalie situation took another turn Saturday night when Jim Hrivnak, playing for the Washington Capitals in Pittsburgh, went down with a left knee injury. Currently, Mike Liut is the Caps' only healthy goalie, while Don Beaupre slowly recovers from a groin pull.
Liut was reported to be on the trading block last week, but Capitals general manager David Poile said last night that he "hasn't talked about a trade at all." Hrivnak was to be examined today and Beaupre still is questionable for Wednesday's Caps-Rangers game in New York.