Giving up goals in the first minute or last minute of any period is hockey's cardinal sin.
It takes the spark out of a team. It demoralizes. It loses games.
Last night the Skipjacks were victimized by this killer twice, both in the initial minute of the second and third periods, as the Springfield Indians sneaked out of town with a gritty 3-2 win.
Worse yet for the Jacks was watching a two-goal lead in the first period slowly dissipate as the Indians' stingy defense wore down the offensive attack.
More than one player in the Jacks' locker room was willing to take the blame for the defeat, including centers Alfie Turcotte and Tim Taylor. Both said their lines suffered because of their play.
"I was running a doughnut line out there with Thomas [Sjogren] and Reggie [Savage]," Turcotte said. "I played poorly -- very poorly. Those two were creating things and I wasn't getting to the net."
But neither was anyone else.
"The whole game seemed like it was played near the neutral zone," Taylor said. "Every good chance was being broken up by their defense. [Goalie Kay] Whitmore was not only stopping the pucks but his defense gave him time to put it back in play where he wanted it. We just never got it going."
Even the Jacks' 2-0 lead going into the locker room after the first 20 minutes on goals from Steve Seftel and Mark Ferner seemed to be pure luck. Although they outshot the Indians 12-9 in the opening period, the Springfield forwards took every opportunity to botch scoring chances -- shooting high, wide or right at goalie Jim Hrivnak -- while having ample time and a shortage of checking defensemen.
Once again the Jacks played a man short on defense as Bobby Babcock left the game after his first shift when he was struck in the ankle with a shot.
The Indians (25-15-4), who moved six points in front of second-place Halifax in the Northern Division, got a goal 48 seconds into the second period when Mark Greig scored on a rebound off a Terry Yake shot. Yake scored 23 seconds into the third period on a very soft shot from the point that Hrivnak missed with his glove.
"I know Jimmy would really like to have that one back," said Jacks coach Robbie Laird.
The game-winner came at 5:55 off the stick of Joe Day, who took a rebound from a Cam Brauer shot and beat Hrivnak high on the glove side to give the Whalers a one-goal lead they would sit on defensively the rest of the game.
"It was a hard one to lose," Laird said. "Those early-period goals wound up killing us."
The loss leaves the Jacks (24-17-2) in second place with 50 points, but dangerously close to falling too far away from Rochester (25-15-5) and too close to Utica (24-20-0), which lost -- 5-4 to Maine last night.
For Whitmore, the 29-save effort and win brings his season record in Springfield to 15-4-0, best in the AHL.
Indians coach Jim Roberts said Hartford should begin to take notice. "He's ready to get another chance up there," Roberts said.