The most promising sign for the Augusta Lynx after the first three games of the season is they find ways to win when they don't play their best.
That was the case again Tuesday, as the Lynx blew a three-goal lead in the final period and held on for a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Cottonmouths, drawing first blood in the inaugural showdown with their new cross-state rival.
The Lynx remained unbeaten at 2-0-1 thanks to goals by Tyson Holly, Josh St. Louis and John Whitwell and a 30-save performance by goalie Judd Lambert.
But they easily could have gone up 6-0, and therein lies the factor behind their early third-period lapse.
"We looked really good the first two periods, but I don't know how many chances we had that we didn't convert, Lynx coach Jim Burton said. "I think the guys started pressing a bit looking for a few more goals. When that happens, you make bad turnovers. We did that in the third and let them back into the game."
Rookie center Patrick Yetman had at least three golden scoring opportunities foiled by bad bounces and Columbus goalie David Brumby, and he wasn't alone.
"We missed a lot of good opportunities, and that gave them the momentum to come back," Yetman said.
The result was pure frustration, which reached a boiling point early in the third.
"There definitely was some frustration after all the great chances we had," said St. Louis, who gave the Lynx a 2-0 lead with his second goal of the year at 8:40 of the first.
"When it doesn't go in, it can get to you, and I think we're at a point now where we're pressing a bit."
While the Cottonmouths (0-3-0) have received a rude welcome to the East Coast Hockey League with three straight losses to start the year, their baptism-by-fire took a turn for the better early in the third period.
Winger Olivier Morin - who scored his share of goals against the Lynx during his days with the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks - broke up Lambert's shutout bid at 2:46 of the third with his team-leading third goal of the season.
Defenseman Jeff Kozakowski cut the deficit to one with his second goal of the year with 7:17 left in the contest to put a collective scare into the perturbed Lynx.
But Burton was pleased with how the Lynx regained their composure.
"The last five minutes, the guys kind of buckled down and played right," Burton said. "They (Columbus) didn't really get many chances after that."
Captain Scott Morrow believes the Lynx will learn from the experience.
"We have to keep that momentum and get a team when their down," Morrow said. "It's a work-in-progress. We're still finding ways to win, and I think it's going to keep getting better and better over the course of the year.
NOTES: Tuesday's game was sold out, but the number of actual fans in the seats was well below the 6,604 capacity. ... Defenseman Wes Swinson (back spasms) was the only scratch for the Lynx. ... Defenseman Martin Lapointe (concussion) returned to practice Monday and is expected to come off the 7-day injured reserve on Friday. Forward/defenseman Kevin Hansen (bruised thigh) also is slated to return from the 7-day IR in time for back-to-back games Friday and Saturday against the Florida Everblades at home. ... The Cottonmouths, who previously had a franchise in the Central Hockey League, are the relocated Hampton Roads Admirals franchise.
Lynx 3, Cottonmouths 2
Star of the game: Winger Tyson Holly scored his second goal of the year.
Key play: Holly opened the scoring on a power play at 3:56 of the first period, as he buried a cross-ice feed from Tyler Willis.
Plus: The Lynx got a goal from an unlikely source, defenseman John Whitwell, his first of the year and 14th of his four-year pro career.
Minus: The Lynx came out flat to open the third period and surrendered a pair of goals, allowing Columbus back into the game.
Ice capades: Members of the Augusta Figure Skating Club performed a patriotic medley during the first intermission.
Up next: Augusta Lynx vs. Florida Everblades, Friday, 7:35 p.m., Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
The three stars of the Lynx-Cottonmouths game as selected by Staff Writer Rob Mueller.
1 - Tyson Holly, Augusta. The speedy winger opened the scoring with his second goal of the year on a power-play at 3:56 of the first period.
2 - Josh St. Louis, Augusta. The rookie tallied his second goal of the year at 8:40 of the first period to give the Lynx a 2-0 lead.
3 - Patrick Yetman, Augusta. The rookie center didn't make it onto the scoresheet, but he finished plus-1 and was robbed on three scoring chances from point-blank range.