Mike Legg was the only player left on the Augusta Lynx bench as the South Carolina Stingrays huddled in front of goalie David Brumby after he stole his team a victory.
Legg couldn't bear to watch the celebration, or to look up at the scoreboard, or to even pull his face out of his gloves.
But there was no hiding from the harsh reality of Friday night's 3-2 shootout loss to the Stingrays. There was no hiding from the fact that the Lynx somehow let another opportunity slip away.
"I feel like a cat, and we've pretty much used up our nine lives," Legg said. "We've had our chances. We should have won this game. But that's the way it's been all year. We just can't seem to take care of business."
After taking it to the Stingrays all night, the Lynx blew a 2-1 lead in the third period and fell in the shootout, as their former teammate, Brumby, stopped all four shootout chances to hand Augusta another heartbreaking defeat.
The Lynx earned one point for the regulation tie, but they needed two to get in the driver's seat for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Southeast Division.
With two games remaining, Augusta (26-38-6) must beat the Greenville Grrrowl on the road tonight and Pee Dee at home Sunday, while Greenville must lose its season finale Sunday vs. Greensboro. If the Grrrowl earn two points in their final two games, they will clinch the fifth spot regardless of how Augusta fares.
"We played very well tonight with 13 skaters against a better hockey club, but we once again didn't get the breaks and came up empty," Lynx coach David Wilkie said. "I'm proud of the effort tonight, but if we're going to make the playoffs, we need our top offensive players to step it up here and we need our goaltender to make the big saves."
The Lynx outshot South Carolina 39-19 and dominated most of the contest, containing one of the league's top offenses with the neutral-zone trap.
After taking a 2-1 lead on goals by newcomer Luke Murphy at 11:03 of the first period and Ryan Crane at 4:18 of the second, the Lynx started to tire in the third period.
Early in the third period came the latest in a long line of bad bounces for the Lynx. This one epitomized their season.
After goalie Tom Draper stopped a drive from the point by Trevor Johnson, the rebound deflected off Lynx defenseman Chris Gustafson, who was parked in the slot, and the puck ricocheted in the net to tie the game at 2.
In the shootout, veteran Dave Seitz and Brad Williamson scored for the second-place Stingrays (41-22-8), and Brumby stoned Augusta's four shooters to seal the victory. Seitz also scored the Stingrays' first goal early in the first period, his 23rd of the season.
Brumby, who was traded to South Carolina in January for cash, made 37 saves to beat his former team for the second time in three weeks.
"I prayed to God on the bench during the shootout to give us a break," Wilkie said. "We didn't get one.'
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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