You can call it unfair, the way the Lynx have come to expect goalie Judd Lambert to bail them out on a nightly basis.
They leaned heavily on him again Thursday night, but for a change, the Lynx battled back and pulled out a victory for their 25-year-old netminder.
Defenseman Ken Ruddick's second goal of the year with 3:15 left in regulation tied the game at 2, and Stacey Rayan got credit for the game-winning goal in the shootout, as the Lynx defeated the road-weary New Orleans Brass 3-2 at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
Lambert stopped 38 of 40 shots in regulation, then turned away four of five chances in the shootout, including a stellar right pad save to rob former NHLer Jeff Lazaro on the Brass' fourth attempt.
"You know Judd's going to be there for us every night," said Lynx coach Dan Wiebe, whose team improved to 17-25-3 heading into tonight's home match vs. Greenville. "The thing about Judd is that he knows defense is our weakness, but one of the best things about him is that he's so levelheaded and doesn't let things like that rattle him. He just goes to battle every night."
And despite another sloppy third period, when they fell behind 2-1 on a fluke goal by Lazaro off a defenseman's skate, the Lynx ultimately dug down deep and won a key battle for Lambert down the stretch.
With Chris Thompson and Andrei Chouroupov -- who earlier set up a goal by Dan Kopec that opened the scoring 4:28 into the game -- working hard down low to maintain possession, Ruddick was freed up at the right point.
Ruddick took a pass from Chouroupov then fired a wrist shot through traffic to beat New Orleans goalie Doug Bonner for the equalizer.
"It was nice to see us get a few goals from guys you don't expect to score goals," Wiebe said. "You take them any way you can get them."
Kopec's goal was only his second of the season and fourth in 172 ECHL games.
But they couldn't hold the lead. Later in the first, New Orleans (24-15-6) evened the score on Andrew Taylor's 19th goal of the year. And, despite being outshot 28-11 through the first two periods, the Lynx managed to hang on through a shaky second period and keep it a 1-1 game heading into the final period.
If the Lynx only could have found their shooting touch, it might have been a different story. They finished with five shots on goal in the second period but misfired badly on several others.
Their best scoring chance of the night came on a 2-on-1 with about seven minutes to go in the second. But with an open right side of the net to shoot at, Jonas Soling took a nice feed from Thompson and shot a one-timer high and wide.
Moments later, New Orleans caught another huge break when defenseman Steve Cheredaryk, the only Brass player within 20 feet of the puck collided with Louis Dumont and fell down inside his own blue line. Bonner came out to play the puck, but it was batted to Lars Pettersen at the right faceoff circle.
With Bonner out of position, Pettersen fired a shot on net, but Brass defenseman Antti Ahokas made what turned out to be the save of the game.
After going without a goal on their first 14 power-play chances against the Lynx this season, the Brass -- who concluded their 12-day, eight-game road trip Thursday -- finally broke through with the man advantage on Lazaro's 17th goal of the season to make it 2-1 at 11:53 of the third period.
While Lambert had to make several big saves down the stretch to preserve the tie, it was Bonner who dodged the biggest bullet of all with 10 seconds left in regulation.
Leading a 2-on-1 with Dean Tiltgen, Dumont skated in on Bonner but bobbled the puck and never got off a clean shot, and the game was headed for overtime.
Problems handling the puck was a common theme Thursday, as players complained of choppy ice as a result of the changeover from a Wednesday night skating show.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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