GREENSBORO - Devin Setoguchi is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP when the season ends, but despite excellent possession numbers and high shot totals, he had yet to break through for the Greensboro Swordsmen over the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.
But last night, Setoguchi picked a fine time to snap out of his mini-funk as he snapped a 3-3 third period tie to help lead the Swordsmen to a 4-3 home win over the Montreal Moose. Greensboro now leads the Eastern Conference Finals 2-0.
"It always frustrates you when you get a lot of chances and can't break through," said Setoguchi. "So to hit the net tonight in a tie game definitely felt good. Hopefully we'll build off this win."
Greensboro now has command of this series with a 2-0 lead going to Montreal, but if there's one team that a series deficit means nothing to, it's Montreal. The Moose have rallied from three different 3-0 series deficits going back to last year, so if Greensboro is able to win Game 3, there will be more pressure than normal on them.
For now, the Swordsmen are in control, but things didn't look to be going their way early on as Montreal jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Michael Funk beat Craig Anderson 2:22 into the first for his eighth of the playoffs to open the scoring. Then just 37 seconds later, Brandon McMillan scored his seventh as the Moose, who had so much trouble beating Anderson in Game 1, had an early two-goal lead.
It was at that point that Greensboro called timeout, and that seemed to turn the tide of the game. Nick Schultz got the Swordsmen on the board at 17:11 of the first and Montreal's lead was trimmed to 2-1 after the first.
In the second, Nigel Williams of Montreal was called for holding at 8:47, and the Swordsmen would even the score just 12 seconds later as Thomas Vanek redirected home an Anton Stralman shot on the power play to tie the game at 2 - the score of the game as it entered the third period.
The Swordsmen jumped on Montreal early in the third as Nazem Kadri scored his sixth just 33 seconds into the period, but Montreal would finally strike back to beat Anderson once again after a Schultz holding call at 10:26 as Pierre-Mark Bouchard's eighth on the power play at 12:04 tied the score at 3.
However, it would take Greensboro only a little over a minute to respond as Setoguchi put home his seventh at 13:10 to put the Swordsmen ahead for good - a lead they would hold onto as they went up 2-0 in the series. Game 3 is in Montreal tomorrow.
MATHIEU SWEET! - Mathieu Perreault scored two goals for the Oakland Seals, including the go-ahead goal in the third, as they took a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 4-2 home win over the Las Vegas Sharks. Tim Thomas stopped 37 of 39 shots to remain excellent in the playoffs while Andrej Meszaros and Juraj Mikus also scored for Oakland. Travis Zajac and Stephane Robidas tallied for the Sharks, who look to turn things around as the series shifts to Las Vegas for Game 3.
2014 XHL CUP PLAYOFFS
DAY 35 and 36
Thursday, August 21 - Simming at aprox. 11:44 PM EST - All times Eastern - Jersey color in parentheses
Greensboro (white) at Montreal (red) - 8 PM - NBCSN, CBC, Radio-Canada (Swordsmen lead series 2-0)
Oakland (yellow) at Las Vegas (teal) - 8 PM - NBC, CBC (Oakland leads series 2-0)