ESTERO, Fla. -- The storybook turnaround continued for the Augusta Lynx on Saturday night in the ECHL playoffs.
The Lynx scored an improbable 3-1 victory over the Florida Everblades in Game 1 of a best-of-five Southern Conference quarterfinal series before a sellout crowd of 7,181 fans at TECO Arena.
Goalie Judd Lambert turned in another stellar performance, stopping 48 of 49 shots to defeat the Everblades, who set an ECHL record for victories (53) and points (108) to capture the Brabham Cup as the regular-season points champions.
Dean Tiltgen netted the game-winning goal at 16:18 of the second period, while Lars Pettesen scored twice, including an empty-netter with 1:03 left in regulation to seal Augusta's first victory in seven tries at TECO Arena.
The Lynx entered the postseason as the 10th seed in the Southern Conference after winning 24 of their final 36 games to make the playoffs on the next-to-last day of the regular season.
Augusta upset the New Orleans Brass in the Southern Conference Wild Card playoffs, wrapping up the best-of-three series with a 5-2 victory in Game 3 on Friday night at New Orleans Municipal Auditorium.
Friday's late win makes Saturday's victory all the more impressive, Lynx coach Dan Wiebe said by phone after the game. The team boarded a bus early Saturday morning for a 12-hour overnight ride to the Fort Myers, Fla., area for Game 1. The Lynx arrived in Estero at around 2 p.m., just five hours before gametime.
"That was just a great effort from our guys tonight and a great playoff hockey game," Wiebe said. "We didn't dominate them by any means; they (Florida) are a great hockey team, and we're not the kind of a team that will dominate too many teams. But we played well, given all the crap we had to go through to get here. This is a pretty incredible victory."
Florida outshot the Lynx 49-25, but couldn't capitalize on its chances, and also faltered on the power play, going 0-for-5.
"They had a lot of shots, but Judd was just unbelievable," Wiebe said. "When you've got a goalie playing as well as Judd is playing right now, anything is possible."
The Lynx took a 2-0 lead on Tiltgen's power-play goal at 9:51 of the first period and Pettersen's first goal of the night at 16:18 of the second.
Florida's Hugh Hamilton cut the deficit to 2-1 when he banged home an Andy MacIntyre rebound for a goal just 3:57 into the third period, but the Lynx held on and got the key empty-netter by Pettersen in the closing moments.
Game 2 of the series will be played Monday night at TECO Arena. Games 3 and 4 will be played in Augusta next Sunday and Monday.