|BOSTON - With 5:11 left in regulation last night, the New England Whalers found themselves down 4-1 on home ice to the Calgary Inferno - the team with the second-fewest points in the XHL. It was going to be an embarrassing loss, a tough way for their win streak to end, and a crushing blow in their once-unlikely playoff hopes.
But over the span of the next 3:24 of regulation, the Whalers roared back with a comeback for the ages that continued their win streak while pushing them a little closer to an improbable playoff berth.
New England rallied back from a late three-goal deficit as Brett Connolly tied it and Jack Connolly put them in the lead as they extended their win streak to five with a 5-4 home win last night.
"That was a crazy one," said Jack Connolly. "But we needed to get the win, and I'm glad I could help. We really fought hard, and it feels good to be able to have come through with this win even after things looked really bad for a while."
The Whalers looked flat early on as Calgary out-shot them 18-7 in the first while taking a 2-0 lead. Matt Marquardt scored his 35th of the year at 5:57 to open the scoring, and then Richard Stehlik put home his second of the year at 14:10 as the Inferno took the two-goal lead into the second.
Calgary once again controlled the second with an 18-9 shots edge, and they would make it 3-0 following an Ondrej Palat cross-checking call at 4:16 as Blake Comeau scored his 27th on the power play at 6:10 as the crowd showed their frustration with the home team.
New England finally got on the board at 16:54 as Jack Connolly scored his fourth of the year, but Calgary re-established their three-goal lead at 7:25 of the third on Jim O'Brien's 26th as they went up 4-1.
But the Whalers would finally wake up in the third as they drubbed Calgary 19-4 in shots over the duration of the period. Despite this, Eddie Lack stood tall in keeping the Inferno ahead. At least until there was 5:11 left in the period.
Ondrej Palat brought the Whalers within two goals at 14:49 with his 20th of the year, and then after a Radek Smolenak cross-checking call at 16:15, New England got within a goal at 16:50 on Scotty Balan's fourth of the year on the power play.
And then just 1:02 after Balan's goal, Brett Connolly tied it with his 13th of the year as the Whalers tied the game at 4 with just 1:58 remaining in regulation.
Overtime seemed like a possibility following the game-tying goal, but New England would not be satisfied with letting Calgary come away with even one point because just 11 seconds after the game-tying goal, Jack Connolly would strike for his second of the game and fifth of the season as the Whalers completed the wild comeback while continuing their winning streak.
The Whalers now sit just one point behind Los Angeles for the second wildcard spot, and three points behind New Orleans for the second spot in the Orr. With standings as close as that, the final stretch of this season is sure to be an interesting one in New England.
"HOW" IT'S DONE - Jimmy Howard stopped 34 of 35 shots as the Detroit Cougars snapped Winnipeg's three-game win streak with a huge 2-1 home win over the Jets.
STAS MORE LIKE IT - Paul Stastny's game-winning goal in overtime helped the Dallas Freeze to their first win since the Phil Kessel trade as they downed the Minnesota North Stars 5-4 at home.
A STRONG BARU - Konstantin Barulin stopped 37 of 38 shots as the San Diego Toros extended their lead in the Gretzky division with a 4-1 home win over the New Orleans Rebels.
BROOKLYN PUTS THE "HEAT" ON LA - Dany Heatley scored two goals and an assist for Brooklyn Red Bulls HC as they won their fourth in a row with a 5-2 win in Los Angeles over the Kings, who have now lost four straight. With the win, Brooklyn has now tied Los Angeles for the second wildcard spot.
TONIGHT: There are five games on the schedule, highlighted by a big game in the Orr division as Brooklyn visits Philadelphia (7 PM, NBCSN). Also, Edmonton visits Chicago in a big game for playoff seeding in the North American conference.
2016 XHL SEASON - All times Eastern
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Dallas (white) at Anaheim (black) - 10 PM - FS Southwest, FS West
San Diego (yellow) at San Francisco (teal) - 10:30 PM - FS San Diego, CSN Bay Area
Brooklyn (white) at Philadelphia (black) - 7 PM - NBCSN, YES2, CSN Philadelphia
Denver (white) at Minnesota (blue) - 8:30 PM - Altitude, FS North
Edmonton (blue) at Chicago (red) - 8:30 PM - SN West, CSN Chicago