Ams upended in crazy third period

January 25, 2013 

Medicine Hat has been simply horrible on the road this season, but with the playoffs fast approaching and the Tigers hungry for points, they took a big bite out of the Tri-City Americans on Friday night.

Boston Leier’s blast from the red line with 5:16 left in the game proved to be the game-winner as Medicine Hat held on to beat the Americans 6-5 before a crowd of 4,022 at Toyota Center.

“They owned our net front,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “They didn’t sneak up on us. We knew their forwards were quick. We didn’t deserve to be as close as we were. That score flatters us.”

The Americans (28-18-1-2, 59 points) failed to make up any ground on fourth-place Spokane in the Western Conference. The Chiefs (62 points) dropped a 3-0 game to Portland on Friday. The Winterhawks are at Toyota Center tonight.

The Tigers (24-23-2-1, 51 points), who won for just the eighth time on the road this season, got a goal and an assist from Elgin Pearce and two assists each from Chad Butcher and Cole Sanford.

“Give them credit, they came in with something to prove,” Tri-City forward Jesse Mychan said of the Tigers. “We have to be better. We were complacent tonight. We have a big one with Portland coming to town. That has to be our focus now.”

Mychan, who had two goals and an assist, gave Tri-City a 4-3 lead early in the third, only to see the Tigers score three unanswered goals — including Boston’s game-winner at 14:44 — for a 6-4 lead.

“It was a lucky bounce,” Pearce said of Boston’s goal. “(Hunter) Skinkaruk had one waived off a couple of minutes before. Might have been the hockey gods giving us a break there.”

The Americans pulled goalie Luke Lee-Knight the last 5 minutes of the game, and Mychan would score with 1:33 remaining, redirecting a shot by Justin Feser, to pull Tri-City within a goal, but the Americans couldn’t even the score.

“We got a little bit desperate at that point and good things can happen,” Hiller said of the last 5 minutes of the game. “When you play desperate, you have to want to get things done.”

Curtis Valk, Logan McVeigh, Chad Labelle and Trevor Cox also scored for the Tigers, while Marek Langhamer finished with 27 saves.

“It was a really fun game to play,” Pearce said. “It showed our team’s character. Hats off to the Americans, they played a great game, too.”

Trailing 1-0 heading into the second, the Tigers took control of the game in the second, scoring a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead by the 9:14 mark.

Labelle tied the score at 1-1 at 3:46, picking up a loose puck to the left of Lee-Knight and knocking it in the net with just 2 seconds left on the power play.

Pearce would give Medicine Hat a 2-1 lead at 9:14, taking a pass from Skinkaruk, motoring up ice and beating Lee-Knight far side for his 22nd goal of the season. Lee-Knight finished with 30 saves.

The Americans, who had just one shot on goal through 15 1/2 minutes of play in the second, were outshot 19-5 in the second, but made their last one count as defenseman Mitch Topping beat Langhamer as time expired to tie the score at 2-2.

“We came out hard in the first, but the second kicked us in the butt,” Mychan said.

Tri-City took a 1-0 lead in the first as Lucas Nickles took a cross-ice pass out of the right corner from Marcus Messier and beat Langhamer at 5:14. It was Nickles’ first goal since Dec. 1 at Vancouver — a span of 19 games.

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