Evan Sarthou leaned against the boards between the end of regulation and the start of overtime.
The Tri-City Americans rookie goaltender had earned a moment to himself after stopping 36 shots through 60 minutes of play.
“I was thinking I had to make the saves so the guys could get the win,” Sarthou said.
Sarthou made a big save in overtime, then watched as Parker Bowles scored the game-winner at the other end at 1:32 to give the Americans a hard-fought win over the Vancouver Giants before a Tuesday night crowd of 4,100 at Toyota Center.
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“(Vancouver) played really well and Sarts played really well,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team has won six in a row at home. “Sarts has done this enough times. That’s who you are, it’s not beginner’s luck.”
Bowles had taken the puck into Vancouver’s end just seconds before he scored, but he lost an edge and fell down. He had just gotten up and was heading into the neutral zone when Lucas Nickles gave him the puck.
He went in alone on Jared Rathjen and buried the puck between Rathjen’s pads.
“I don’t even know how it happened,” Bowles said. “Nick got the puck and I was straddling the blue line. He kind of looked at me. We were talking after, he didn’t know if he was going to pass it or go
2-on-1. He shoveled it up to me and it happened.”
It was just one of many quirky things that happened during the game.“It’s the craziest game in the world sometimes,” Hiller said. “That play there let everybody know why you come to hockey. You never know what to expect. You see a lot of interesting things, and that was one of the odder ones.”
Sarthou finished with 37 saves for the Americans (14-10-0-2, 30 points) and picked up his third win.
“I’m happy the guys helped me out blocking a lot shots and letting me see the puck,” Sarthou said. “It was a great team effort.”
The Giants (10-11-3-1), who manufactured 30 shots on goal through two periods, mustered just eight in the third as the Americans clamped down on defense and had a stick in every lane.
Of those eight, half came on a power-play with less than four minutes left in regulation.
After Jessey Astles checked Thomas Foster into the boards with 3:50 left in the third, Mason Geertsen exchanged a few blows with Astles before the Giants went on the power play for 3 minutes.
Vancouver managed four shots on goal, but had a hard time setting up its power play.
“We played a pretty good game,” said Giants coach Don Hay. “We turned the puck over and they capitalized on their opportunities. We didn’t capitalize on ours, which was that three-minute power play. We didn’t take advantage of it and it cost us. We played hard, but we have to play better to get wins.”
Said Hiller: “That (penalty kill) was the bright spot of our hockey game.”
Tied at 1-1, the second period was fast, furious and entertaining. And still 1-1 at the end.
Tri-City’s Justin Gutierrez had a goal disallowed at 8:30 as referee Mike Campbell said the whistle had already blown.
Vancouver’s Cain Franson had his shot turned away on a breakaway at 13:30, and the Americans’ Brian Williams had a golden opportunity with a breakaway with 1:07 left in the period, but found nothing but Rathjen’s pads.
“Vancouver did a good job of being in the lanes,” Sarthou said. “They are a good defensive team and they don’t give up a lot. When we did get our chances, we executed.”
The Giants controlled the first period, outshooting the Americans 20-4. They had a 1-0 lead off a goal by Travis McEvoy at 13:12 and looked to take the lead into the locker room at the end of the period.
But the Americans had other plans.
With less than 10 seconds left on the clock, Connor Rankin gathered up a loose puck in the left face-off circle and sent it over to Williams cutting across the slot. Williams backhanded the puck past Rathjen with 7.2 seconds remaining to even the score.
Notes: Vancouver has lost in a row at Toyota Center. ... The Giants traded F Scott Cooke, 19, to the Moose Jaw Warriors for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. Cooke played 79 games with the Giants over the last four seasons, scoring one goal with three assists and 171 penalty minutes. Cooke hasn’t played this year because of an injury.