To say the rivalry between the Augusta Lynx and the Greenville Grrrowl this season has been intense would be an understatement.
Sunday's game at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center proved no different. For the third time in six meetings, the Lynx and Grrrowl couldn't settle a game in regulation.
Lynx goalie Jason Saal stopped all four Greenville shooters, and Eric Johansson provided the game-winner as the Lynx won 3-2 in a shootout.
"We're playing really well in this building," Augusta coach Stan Drulia said. "We're establishing some home-ice advantage. The fans are really behind the guys and it makes a difference. It picks them up."
The Lynx (21-25-7, 49 points), who have won six in a row at home, gave their fans their money's worth by coming back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra period, Greenville coach John Marks provided the crowd some amusement by putting a white towel on the end of a stick and waving it around at an official. The gesture came after Richard Pitirri was called for a tripping penalty when the Grrrowl were on a breakaway with 14 seconds left.
It was one of 31 penalties in the game, with 15 coming in the first period alone.
"There's no flow to a game like that," Johansson said. "You just want to go out there, play five-on-five, get your legs going. Unfortunately that wasn't the case."
The Grrrowl (30-20-5, 65 points) came out of a choppy first period with a 1-0 lead after Saal gave up what he called a "bad goal" to Pitirri.
"I just wasn't on my game right there at the start," Saal said.
Ed Caron gave the Grrrowl a 2-0 lead 1:13 into the second period, but Johansson said the Lynx never felt like they were out of the game.
"We were all over them, their goalie stood up big for them," Johansson said.
The Lynx outshot the Grrrowl 13-5 in the first period and 43-26 in the game, but goalie Jeff Deslauriers made it tough for Augusta for most of regulation. Matt Dzieduszycki got the Lynx's first goal after stealing the puck and making a nice move on defenseman Vladimir Gusev to cut the Grrrowl's lead to one goal with 4:52 left in the second.
The score remained 2-1 until Jamie Johnson fired a shot through traffic for a power-play goal with 1:15 left in regulation.
After a scoreless overtime, Saal stopped Brock Radunske to start the shootout.
"To get the first save at home is big," said Saal (16-14-4), who won his fourth shootout of the year. "It gets me a little more motivated, a little more focused, and it kind of keeps me a little more positive."
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
STAR OF THE GAME: Forward Eric Johansson notched the game-winner in the shootout and had an assist for the Lynx.
TURNING POINT: Jamie Johnson's power-play goal with 1:15 left in regulation tied the game.
PLUS: The Lynx now trail ninth-place Pee Dee by just four points and didn't lose ground on eighth-place Mississippi for the conference's final playoff spot.
NEXT GAME: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Lynx at Columbia