Baltimore Skipjacks coach Rob Laird knew his team's offense would be its most effective unit.
What he probably didn't know was that it also could be its best form of defense.
The forward lines were so good at attacking the St. John's Maple Leafs last night at the Baltimore Arena that the opponents could barely get the puck out of their defensive zone long enough to ice the puck.
The Jacks outshot St. John's in two of three periods and by 5-0 in overtime for a 36-26 advantage, but needed a goal by Craig Duncanson at 2 minutes, 53 seconds of the extra session to defeat the Leafs, 5-4.
Duncanson led a two-on-two attack across the blue line with John Purves and put a rebound of his shot past sprawling goalie Damian Rhodes for his second goal of the game and the game-winner.
"Their defense loosened up, and John and I got ahead of the play and I gave the puck to him," Duncanson said. "They both went to him, and he gave it right back. [Rhodes] made a nice save, but I was lucky enough to get the puck back for a second chance."
Duncanson gave the Skipjacks a 4-3 lead 1:16 into the third period, beating Rhodes between the legs with a 20-foot slap shot from the right side.
But former Skipjacks defenseman Joel Quenneville evened the score with 9:30 remaining, shoving a loose puck past goalie Olaf Kolzig, salvaging a point for the Leafs.
The Jacks didn't afford the Leafs many extra opportunities all evening, drawing just three penalties and holding them scoreless on those chances.
The Saints weren't so lucky.
The Jacks' power-play unit scored three goals in seven chances, pressuring Rhodes from every angle.
"I thought we worked their defense really well once we got the puck into their zone," Laird said. "I was especially happy with the power-play chances we got. We worked hard all week on the power play, and it paid off."
The Maple Leafs scored first at 5:31 when veteran right wing Kevin McClelland tipped a shot by Dave Tomlinson through Kolzig's legs for the 1-0 lead.
The Skipjacks took advantage of their second power-play opportunity when Purves evened the score at 15:40, taking a pass from the right point from Mark Ferner and beating Rhodes on the right doorstep.
"The way they came after me when he gave me the puck, I had choice but to give it back," Purves said. "He made the play by going past them."
NOTES: LW Randy Pearce and LW Dave Morrissette were reassigned to Hampton Roads of the ECHL to get more ice time. Assistant coach Barry Trotz said the moves were "not demotions, but a chance for these young players to get to play every night, 80 games in a season." Pearce is coming back to hockey after breaking his left leg in the last game of last year's preseason. Morrissette, who proved his fighting prowess in the preseason, was bumped in favor of tough RW Richie Walcott. The Jacks have 13 healthy forwards.
St. John's 1 2 1 0 -- 4
Skipjacks 1 2 1 1 -- 5
First period--1. St. John's, McClelland 1 (Tomlinson, Stevens), 5:31; 2. Skipjacks, Purves 2 (Ferner, Wheeldon), pp., 15:40. Penalties--Serowik, St. John's (interference), 8:11; Stevens, St. John's (slashing), 15:25; Hawkins, St. John's (interference), 17:12.
Second period--3. St. John's, McKim 2 (Aitken, Hawkins), :22; 4. St. John's, Hawkins 1 (Aitken, Hunt), 9:06; 5. Skipjacks, Martell 1, un., 13:38; 6. Skipjacks, Purves 3 (Ferner), pp., 14:51. Penalties--McKim, St. John's (cross -checking), :49; Gervais, Skipjacks (hooking), 9:35; McClelland, St. John's ( holding, unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:08; Bartley, Skipjacks (interference), 12:35; Martell, Skipjacks (hi-sticking), 18:03; Hawkins, St. John's (elbowing), 19:18.
Third period--7. Skipjacks, Duncanson 1 (Ferner, Purves), pp., 1:16; 8. St. John's, Quenneville 1 (Stevens, Tomlinson), 10:30. Penalties--None.
Overtime--9. Skipjacks, Duncanson 2 (Ferner, Purves), 2:53. Penalties--None.
Shots on goal--St. John's 10-5-11-0--26; Skipjacks 10-14-7-5--36. VTC Power-play opportunities--St. John's 0-for-3; Skipjacks 3-for-7. Goalies--St. John's, Rhodes (36 shots, 31 saves); Skipjacks, Kolzig (26 shots, 22 saves). A--2,630. Referee--Dave Jackson. Linesmen--Gary Madsen and Rich Zerbe.
Opponent: Adirondack Red Wings
Site: Glens Falls (N.Y.) Civic Center, 7:35
Radio: WYST (1010 AM)
Outlook: For the second straight weekend, Baltimore is playing Adirondack on the road less than 24 hours after a home game at Baltimore Arena. Baltimore swept last weekend's back-to-back games for a 2-0 start. The Skipjacks outscored Adirondack, 6-5, last Saturday night. Adirondack is led by RW Sheldon Kennedy (7 goals), last week's AHL Player of the Week. The Red Wings lost, 4-3, to Capital District on Wednesday night.