The message from coach David Wilkie written on the board inside the Augusta Lynx dressing room said it all: "Urgency & Desperation. ... We have to win!"
"If we would've lost tonight, I won't say it would have been over, but we would've been in big trouble," Wilkie said.
In a game they desperately needed to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Lynx rose to the occasion for the first time this season.
Goals by Martin Lapointe and Ryan Lauzon 18 seconds apart late in the second period erased a 2-0 deficit, and Lapointe's second power-play tally of the night early in the third period was the game winner in a 5-2 decision Saturday over the Greenville Grrrowl.
Defenseman Chris Gustafson, acquired from Greenville on Feb. 6, beat former NHL goalie Damian Rhodes with an insurance goal with 4:33 left - a nice payoff for a team that killed off eight minutes in penalties in the final period to secure the win.
Lauzon finished it with his second goal of the night into an empty net with 38 seconds remaining, as the Lynx snapped a two-game skid with one of their most important victories of the year.
The Lynx also excelled on special teams, going 2-for-5 on the power play while killing all seven of Greenville's power-play opportunities.
"The pressure was on us," said Lauzon, who added a pair of assists to his 16th and 17th goals of the season. "If we would have lost tonight, it might have been the season."
With 17 games left, the last-place Lynx (19-32-4) pulled within five points of Greenville (21-29-5) for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Southeast Division. The teams meet three more times over the final five weeks of the season.
"We battled back to win a game we had to win," Lapointe said. "To lose this one would have been devastating."
It appeared the Lynx were headed in a losing direction as the Grrrowl came out crashing and driving to the net. Their hard work produced a 1-0 lead 57 seconds in when Krzysztof Wieckowski won a battle in the corner and fed the puck to Alexandre Burrows, who beat goalie Tom Draper from the slot for his eighth goal.
It was 2-0 when former Lynx Jonathan Gauthier, traded to Greenville in the Gustafson deal, corralled his own rebound and scored his seventh goal at 5:47 of the second.
But the Lynx seized the momentum on the quick goals by Lapointe and Lauzon.
"We had to win," Wilkie said. "The guys summoned all they had to get it done,
NOTES: Forward Josh St. Louis, who suffered a hip flexor injury in Thursday's loss to Columbia, did not play Saturday and will likely miss today's contest vs. Greensboro. ... Goalie Colin Zulianello rejoined the Lynx Saturday after a stint with Springfield of the AHL. ... The Lynx honored Evans resident Dr. Larry Hendry, a member of the off-ice officials staff and a local hockey referee who was recently inducted into the Penn State Hockey Hall of Fame. Hendry founded the Penn State hockey program in 1972. ... Assistant equipment manager Tom Walsh, 72, was struck in the temple by a puck on the bench during the first period and needed six stitches. He returned to the bench for the second period.
STAR OF THE GAME: lynx defenseman Martin Lapointe scored a pair of goals, both on the power play.
KEY PLAY: With the game tied at 2-2, Lapointe fired a shot from the point that deflected past former NHL goalie Damian Rhodes to give the Lynx the lead at 2:57 of the third.
PLUS: Ryan Lauzon scored two goals, his 16th and 17th of the year, and added two assists.
PLUS: Goalie Tom Draper rebounded from two subpar outings with a 27-save effort.
TODAY: Lynx vs. Greensboro Generals, 4:05 p.m., Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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