By Woodard, Dale on February 11, 2019.
A third period lead once again slipped through the Lethbridge Hurricanes fingers.
The Canes were edged 6-5 by the Prince Albert Raiders in Western Hockey League play Saturday night at the Enmax Centre.
In a goal-swapping, entertaining game in which Lethbridge held three leads, it looked as though the Hurricane’s penalty kill might provide the game-winning heroics as Jake Leschyshyn fleeced Raiders goaltender Boston Bilous of a puck behind the Prince Albert goal and deposited the turnover into an empty cage for a 5-4 lead 5:57 into the third.
The hosts were handed two more chances on the same penalty kill to put the Raiders in a hole, but the league-leaders promptly marched back the other way less than a minute after Leschyshyn’s goal to tie the game on a man advantage goal from Ozzy Wiesblatt.
With a little over six minutes to go Cole Fonstad scored his second of the game for what stood up as the winner as the Raiders hit the road with the decision minus the services of leading scorer Brett Leason – injured the night before in Calgary – and starting goaltender Ian Scott, a healthy scratch.
The loss puts the Hurricanes at 27-16-5-5 and into third place in the Central Division, one point back of the 30-18-3-2 Medicine Hat Tigers, who took a point off the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday night in Seattle.
“It’s disappointing,” said Leschyshyn, who scored twice Saturday night and now has 31 this season. “No matter who our opponent, a loss is a loss and we’re really going to need to push in these next couple of games. It’s a crucial stretch in the year to find success. It was a back-and-forth game, but we have to close it out.”
The Hurricanes thought they had a 1-0 lead off a deflection goal from Jackson Shepard a little over three minutes into the game, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference.
Lethbridge made their next chance count as defenceman Koletrane Wilson pinched in from the point and fed Jake Elmer out front for Elmer’s 22nd of the season and a 1-0 lead 5:42 into the first.
Prince Albert’s Eric Pearce scored with 7:20 left in the first for a 1-1 tie heading into the first intermission.
The Raiders started the second period on the power play after Elmer was called for boarding to end the first period and turned that into a 2-1 lead early in the second when Parker Kelly scored late in the man advantage.
Fonstad put Prince Albert up 3-1 almost six minutes later, but the two-goal cushion didn’t last long when Canes defenceman Ty Prefontaine’s point shot barely squeaked past Bilous and over the goal line to cut the lead to 3-2 8:59 into the second.
The Hurricanes kept coming late in the second and took their second lead of the game on goals from Igor Merezhko and Leschyshyn for a 4-3 lead, but the Raiders tied it back up before the second stanza was over on Sean Montgomery’s goal with 1:10 left.
The Raiders went to the power play 5:30 into the third period when Dylan Cozens was called for goaltender interference.
However, it was the Hurricanes that took the lead and Leschyshyn netted his second of the game, chasing Bilous behind the Prince Albert net, grabbing the puck from the goaltender and burying the chance for a 5-4 lead at the 5:57 mark.
The shorthanded chances kept coming for the Hurricanes as Taylor Ross nearly broke free. Less than a minute later, Elmer broke in off the left wing and rattled a shot off the post and out to keep it 5-4.
Prince Albert turned it back the other way on the same power play and deadlocked it on Wiesblatt’s 12th of the season.
Fonstad then scored his second of the game with 6:37 remaining for the winner.
“I thought it was a hard fought game,” said Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio. “It was back-and-forth. We just have to be better defensively. There were too many chances against.
“I thought we did a good job battling back (in the second), but obviously our penalty kill has to be a lot better.”
The Raiders were 2-for-3 on the power play, while the Hurricanes were 0-for-1.
Despite some late chances in search of the equalizer, the Canes were unable to find a way past Bilous.
“We’re starting to score some goals, we just have to find a way to put teams away,” said Kisio. “We get up by a goal and we have a short handed a chance and we hit a crossbar and they come back and score and it’s tied up again. We’re doing some good things, but we have to be a lot better.”
“It’s good to see some offensive success, but when you look at the flipside of it you really have to bear down defensively,” added Leschyshyn. “I think there are a lot of goals that have been scored right in front of our net and that’s a lack of commitment on our part to really bear down on the defensive side of the game. But it’s good to see our offensive game coming.”
Hurricanes goaltender Carl Tetachuk stopped 31 of 37 shots, while Bilous turned away 29 shots.
The Hurricanes complete their six-game home stand Wednesday when the Calgary Hitmen pay a visit to the Enmax Centre at 7 p.m.
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