FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The Western Conference Final between the Colorado Eagles and Fort Wayne Komets have been a tale of venues, really. In the first two games played in Colorado, both were very physical, chippy contests. When the series shifted to northeast Indiana, the series seemed to take on a “controlled chaos” feel, with both goaltenders standing tall. In Saturday night’s pivotal game five, the “controlled chaos” continued.
The first goal in this contest would be important. Entering game five, when the Eagles have scored first in these playoffs, they were 6-0. Fort Wayne was 7-0-2 when scoring first.
Matt Garbowsky received a pass from Ryan Harrison at the blue line and was in alone, snapped a shot from the circle and into the net behind Michael Houser to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Minutes later, with Garbowsky in the box for slashing, the Komets tied the contest with the first of their two power-play goals on the night. Ryan Lowney kept the puck in the zone and fired a point-to-point pass to Jason Binkley at the right point, who threw it toward the net and it was deflected in front by Artur Tyanulin.
With Garbowsky off again this time for hooking, the Komets struck again on the power-play. Shawn Szydlowski fired a one-time pass from just above the blue line to Ryan Culkin in the right faceoff circle, who teed one up and blew it past Cannata.
After not getting a shot until almost halfway through the second period, Colorado tied it on their second shot of the period. After stealing the puck, Michael Joly tried to cut to the middle and had the puck roll off his stick. Garbowsky retrieved it, passed it to Jake Marto, who fired a shot that deflected off a defender and into the net at 10:09 of the period.
However, the tied game only lasted just over two minutes as the Komets retook the lead on another odd-man rush. Jamie Schaafsma skated in on the right side and as he attempted to pass it across the slot, the puck deflected into the net off the stick of Marto at 12:11.
From there, the game entered into a bit of a stalemate, with both sides being stymied by the other goaltender.
After killing back-to-back penalties in the middle of the third period, Colorado was building momentum. After an unsuccessful abbreviated power play, Garbowsky brought the puck out into the right corner and passed it to Joly at the point. Joly was able to take a stride or two towards the net and unleashed a howitzer past Houser to tie the game with 9:35 left in regulation.
The teams continued to trade chances as the sands in the regulation hourglass ticked away. Neither team able to find another goal in the third. Cannata and Houser made some excellent saves down the stretch to keep the game tied. Cannata also got some help from his defense. A few times, twice in the final five minutes of regulation, the puck squirted through Cannata and his defense was there to help by getting the puck away from the front of the net.
In the first overtime, Cannata stood tall as he faced and turned aside ten shots. Houser saw and saved seven. Fort Wayne had a powerplay in the first overtime that was killed. The Komets carried most of the play in the first overtime. The Eagles couldn’t get the puck into the offensive zone for any amount of time for sustained pressure.
Two minutes into the second overtime, a mistake behind the net nearly costs the Eagles as Cannata turned the puck over and somehow got back into the crease to make a huge save on Tyanulin.
Just seconds after that tremendous save, play headed to the other end and Ryan Olsen threw a perfect pass to Brady Shaw, who fired a one-timer over Houser and into the net for the game-winner at 2:38 of the second overtime.
Cannata picked up the hard-fought victory, making 51 saves on 54 shots, improving to 11-3-1 in the postseason. Houser, meanwhile, took the overtime loss, making 32 saves on 36 shots. Colorado was 0-for-3 on the power play and continues to struggle on special teams in the series. Fort Wayne converted on 2-of-6 power-play chances.
The Eagles will look to close out the series in game six on Tuesday night. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. MDT (9:05 p.m. EDT) from the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.