Lars Pettersen gave the Augusta Lynx a legitimate shot to win a hockey game they had no right winning.
In the end Thursday night, the Birmingham Bulls held on for a 7-6 win before 4,217 fans at the Civic Center, but not before the 21-year-old Augusta center turned in a performance that will have everyone scouring all the pro hockey record books come morning.
With five goals, all in a 16:04 span of the third period, Pettersen singlehandedly helped the Lynx turn a six-goal deficit into a one-goal game. After a performance for 40 minutes many of the players called the low point of their season, they hailed the near comeback as a moral victory to carry them through two more tough games the next two nights.
"I've never heard of a guy scoring five goals in (16) minutes," said rookie Sam Ftorek, who assisted on three of the five goals. "It's possibly the fastest five goals in one game in the history of hockey. You don't see something like that often and to be a part of if it, to get three assists out of it and just to witness it was really great. I saw a lot of fans leaving but the ones that stuck around definitely got their money's worth."
After the Lynx hit rock bottom, falling behind 7-1 after two periods, Pettersen said the team talked during the second intermission about finishing up strong. He had no idea just how strong a finish it would be.
"It was just a huge effort by everyone in the third period," said Pettersen, who now has 13 goals on the season and eight in his last four games. "For me, it just feels good to finally score some goals here. I've struggled all year but now, it pretty much seems like everything I shoot's going in. I'd much rather have the win, but it's always nice to have a game like that.
The first four goals came in a span of 8:30, including three on the power play, to make it a 7-5 game with 8:35 remaining. Then, with goalie Judd Lambert pulled for an extra skater with 1:08 remaining, Pettersen added his fifth goal to make it a one-goal game and add to the drama.
Birmingham (23-22-3) held on to spoil the remarkable comeback and snapped Augusta's five-game unbeaten streak, but it was a night Pettersen and the Lynx won't soon forget.
"When things are going you're way, they're really going your way, and that's the case for Lars right now," Lynx coach Dan Wiebe said. "I've never seen that in one period. That was pretty incredible actually to see something like that happening. It's great for him. He was Johnny on the spot every single time."
Birmingham winger Chad Power also had a night to remember, scoring a hat trick to lead the way for the Bulls, who won for only the second time in the last five games.
With the loss, the Lynx failed to keep pace with first-place Pee Dee in the Southeast Division. The Pride (32-12-3), who entered the night leading the second-place Lynx by eight points in the standings, defeated Mississippi 6-3 at home on Thursday to increase their lead to 10 points.
To call the Lynx out of sync in the first two periods would be kind.
Despite the absence of captain Dan Kopec, who sat out with a mild case of pneumonia, Augusta came out flying with a goal by Bryan Duce just 14 seconds into the contest. But from there, the Bulls dominated every facet of the game the rest of the way, and the Lynx were fortunate to come away trailing just 2-1 after one.
Augusta's sloppiness and the Bulls' onslaught continued in the second, when they went up 4-1 on goals by Jamey Hicks and Kelly Perrault in the opening 1:15 of the period.
Wiebe pulled Lambert in favor of Tim Keyes to finish up the second period, but the 22-year-old backup couldn't stop the bleeding.
Power scored his second goal of the night at 6:46 and Stefan Rivard banged home a rebound for his 14th goal at 8:37 to make it 6-1.
And just when it seemed like it could get no worse for the Lynx, Power completed his hat trick with a shorthanded goal, his 23rd goal of the season, with 3:25 left in the second period to make it 7-1.
"We didn't deserve to win this game after first two periods," Pettersen said. "It was real embarrassing. This was a huge game for us; (Birmingham's) right on our butts in the playoff hunt and we need to win these games to get ourselves in a position to get home-ice advantage for the playoffs."
Now, the Lynx hope to take the momentum on the road into tonight's game in Charlotte, N.C.
"We were trying to get some positive to go into (tonight's) game, and five goals in the third including three on the power play helps," said Lynx playerassistant Darren Colbourne, who had four assists. "We still didn't win the game but we never gave up, and Lars was unbelievable."
NOTES: After the game, Keyes was recalled by Syracuse of the American Hockey League, leaving the Lynx in a bind. Wiebe was working the phones late Thursday trying to find an emergency backup for tonight's game. ... For the first time this season, the Civic Center will offer a skating session open to the public following Saturday night's game vs. Mobile. The session will last 90 minutes and begin 30 minutes after the game, around 10:45 p.m. Admission is $4 and skaters must provide their own skates.
Rob Mueller covers hockey for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Birmingham -- 2 5 0 -- 7
Augusta -- 1 0 5 -- 6
First period: 1 -- Augusta, Duce 11 (Colbourne, Pettersen), :14. 2 -- Birmingham, Seroski 12 (Hicks), :52. 3 -- Birmingham, Power 21 (Seroski, Hicks), 4:33. Penalties -- Cabana, Aug (high sticking), 6:19; Whitwell, Aug (hooking), 8:25; Rivard, Bir (charging), 14:58; Cabana, Aug (hooking), 17:30.
Second period: 4 -- Birmingham, Hicks 9 (Seroski), :37. 5 -- Birmingham, Perrault 7 (Belanger), 1:15. 6 -- Birmingham, Power 22 (Seroski, Hicks), 6:46. 7 -- Birmingham, Rivard 14 (Perrault, McGee), 8:37. 8 -- Birmingham, Power 23 (Hicks), 16:35 (sh). Penalties -- Rivard, Bir (tripping), 2:54; Rezansoff, Aug (roughing), 8:42; Cabana, Aug (high sticking), 9:27; McGee, Bir (holding stick), 15:13; Soling, Aug (roughing), 18:04; Berg, Aug (high sticking), 19:57; Rezansoff, Aug, major (misconduct), 19:57.
Third period: 9 -- Augusta, Pettersen 9 (Colbourne, Ftorek), 2:55. 10 -- Augusta, Pettersen 10 (Ftorek), 3:44 (pp). 11 -- Augusta, Pettersen 11 (Ftorek), 10:09 (pp). 12 -- Augusta, Pettersen 12 (Irwin, Colbourne), 11:25 (pp). 13 -- Augusta, Pettersen 13 (Berg, Ftorek), 18:56. Penalties -- Perrault, Bir (holding), 3:18; Labranche, Bir (tripping), 8:49; Labranche, Bir (tripping), 10:36; Cabana, Aug (cross checking), major (fighting), 12:51; Lewis, Bir (instigating), major (fighting-game misconduct), 12:51; Rivard, Bir (slashing), 12:51; Pettersen, Aug (goal interference), 13:38; Hicks, Bir (hooking), 14:13
Shots on goal: Birmingham 22-21-3-46. Augusta 9-9-25-43. Power-play opportunities: Birmingham 0 for 5, Augusta 3 for 5.