WHEELING - A hockey team that kills off seven straight penalties generally doesn't find itself on the losing end of things when it's all said and done.
Nor is it often that a team that leads 4-1 in the third period comes out on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Somehow the Wheeling Nailers found a way to do all of the above Saturday night at WesBanco Arena.
Wheeling’s Chris Higgins celebrates after scoring Saturday night against Florida at WesBanco Arena.
Photo by Joe Lovell
Justin Shugg scored a hat trick including the game-tying goal with 28 seconds left in regulation then added another in the shootout, as the Florida Everblades (10-8-5 - 25) skated out of town with a weekend sweep of the Nailers (6-8-5 - 17) by virtue of a 5-4 victory.
''You get a lot of extra points in overtime,'' Wheeling assistant coach Zach Sonnefeld said. ''You look at the teams at the top of the division, when they get into overtime games like that they find a way to come out on top.''
The Nailers haven't figured a way to do that, either. They're last in the league when the game goes longer that 60 minutes, managing a 0-2-5 record in such situations.
Florida0 1 3 0 - 5
Wheeling1 2 1 0 - 4
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Lenes 3 (Crowder, Pither), 3:02. Penalties-Hotham Whl (tripping), 5:30; Kivisto Fla (tripping), 11:31; Hotham Whl (hooking), 18:53.
2nd Period-2, Florida, Shugg 9 (Rutherford), 9:24. 3, Wheeling, Higgins 2 (Chupp, Merth), 14:41. 4, Wheeling, Hotham 3 (Crowder, Higgins), 15:59 (PP). Penalties-Wild Whl (cross-checking), 7:24; Shugg Fla (cross-checking), 15:19; Stejskal Whl (hooking), 19:34.
3rd Period-5, Wheeling, Lenes 4 (Hotham), 6:09 (PP). 6, Florida, Raymond 7 (Marquardt, Bogosian), 11:23. 7, Florida, Shugg 10 (Salters, Trivino ), 11:48. 8, Florida, Shugg 11 (Roy, Trivino ), 19:32. Penalties-Ross Whl (cross-checking), 0:22; Merth Whl (slashing ), 1:27; Ross Whl (roughing), 2:52; Shugg Fla (hooking), 4:39; Kivisto Fla (tripping), 8:34.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Ellington Fla (hooking), 3:11.
Shootout - Florida 3 (Irwin NG, Shugg G, Beca NG, Rutherford G, Marquardt G), Wheeling 1 (Germain NG, Higgins NG, Hotham NG, Pither G).
Shots on Goal-Florida 8-8-7-2-1-26. Wheeling 15-14-2-1-0-32.
Power-Play Opportunities-Florida 0-7; Wheeling 2-5.
Goalies-Florida, Muse 5-3-1-3 (32 shots-28 saves). Wheeling, Killeen 3-5-2-2 (25 shots-21 saves).
Referee-Andy Thackaberry (22); Linesmen-Jim Scarpace (50), Zach Roberts (84).
Wheeling, leading 3-1, killed off 4:39 of penalty time to begin the third period including three separate 5-on-3 Florida power plays. The Everblades entered connecting 24.8 percent of the time.
When the Nailers' Peter Lenes swooped into the slot and snuck his second goal of the game and fourth of the season past Florida goaltender John Muse, who eventually earned his second victory in as many nights, to make it 4-1 at 6:09, it seemed as though the rest was history.
It turns out that was true, it just wasn't the kind Wheeling would like to see repeated.
''This is our second time, or third time this year we've done that,'' Nailers alternate captain Paul Crowder said. ''We are a little bit fragile.
''We've played hockey 20-plus years, most of us. We should know what it takes to win.''
Defenseman Bobby Raymond snuck his seventh past Wheeling netminder Patrick Killeen at the 11:23 mark. Just 25 seconds later it was 4-3 as Shugg tallied his second of the night and 10th of the season on a similar-looking play.
''We give up a goal and it's not a big deal - we've earned the lead,'' Sonnefeld said. ''It's a matter of when that time comes everyone has to go out there and bear down.
''When we don't stick to the plan, as we know bad things happen real quick. Until we learn to correct that we're not going to win a lot of hockey games.''
Shugg knotted things after captain Mathieu Roy won a puck battle along the boards. Shugg was all alone with Killeen, who he deked to the ice and then lifted the puck into the net for his third of the game.
Shugg and David Rutherford scored in the shootout to offset Wheeling's only tally, which came off the stick of Luke Pither. Muse stopped 9 of 10 in the shootout during the two nights.
''I honestly think the way we've been been playing, we've been playing a lot better, this is kind of a kick in the teeth,'' Wheeling defenseman Carl Sneep said. ''It's losing sight on what's making you successful. Sometimes you get up like that and maybe you don't have anything on the scoresheet and you want to cheat for offense and try to get a point so you can make it look like you had a good game.
''Just not committing to play a full 60 minutes.''
The Nailers, who lost for the second time this season when leading after one period, got on the scoreboard first courtesy of Lenes. Crowder made a slick move around a defender at the Florida blueline and shot the puck off Muse's pads. Lenes deposited the rebound.
Shugg knotted things before Cody Chupp's shot at the 16:41 point of the second period was laying on the goal line where Chris Higgins batted it in for his second goal in as many games with the team.
Crowder made another nice play on a drop pass for Andrew Hotham sneaking in the backdoor, and he buried his third of the season and first with Wheeling to make it 3-1 on the power play.
But it all ended up in a tough-luck loss for Killeen who stopped 21 shots.
''We outshoot them 3-to-1 or 2-to-1, but the scoring chances we are giving them are Grade-A chances,'' Sneep said. ''It's obviously not how we wanted to finish, but I think as a whole this is moving in the right direction as a team.
''It's frustrating to everyone to have a chance to win but we've got to try to stay positive.''