By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Mark Derlago completed his third hat trick of the season in unforgettable fashion Saturday night at Rabobank Arena, blasting a slap shot past John DeCaro 11 seconds into overtime, lifting the Condors to a 4-3 victory and sending the crowd of 5,173 into a roar that lasted several minutes.
Derlago’s shot from the left circle was in and out of the net so fast the goal light didn’t even come on until long after the fact.
No matter, Derlago was mobbed by all of his teammates while the puck was still bouncing on the ice as the Condors took a 3-2 series lead heading back to Las Vegas for Game 6 on Tuesday.
Derlago was the No. 1 star and it took a couple of minutes before the public address announcer could quiet them enough to ask a question. Asked what the thought process was heading into overtime, Derlago said: “We wanted to score and we wanted to score early.”
It was another comeback victory for the Condors, who saw a two-goal lead turn into a 3-2 deficit before Derlago tied the game late in the second period.
“Wow!” Derlago said of the goal and finish outside an elated Condors dressing room. “(Donny) Grover made a great pass and we were talking in the locker room about needing to get shots on net so I just buried my head, took a shot and it went in.
“We came out hard in the first period and it was a gutsy effort by everybody.”
The Condors were outshot 39-26, with Yutaka Fukufuji stopping 36 shots for Bakersfield.
The Condors showed aggression with three hits by three players on the first shift of the game and took the early lead for the first time since Game 1 when Brett Pilkington deflected a shot from the point by Tom Morrow at 3:37.
That put the Wranglers on a two-man advantage for a full two minutes and they needed just 47 seconds to change the momentum as Justin Taylor scored.
The Condors opened the second period on a power play but that backfired as Scott McCulloch sent a wrister from the right circle over Fukufuji’s glove for a short-handed goal and a 2-2 tied 1:50 into the period.
The Condors then survived three Las Vegas power plays, including nearly a minute of another two-man advantage, before a Bakersfield power play led to another Las Vegas goal.
This time, the Condors failed to keep the puck in at the point just as a Wrangler was coming out of the penalty box. That led to a 3-on-1 rush which ended with Brett Tyler beating Fukufuji with an off-speed shot at 15:51.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Condors stopped the bleeding and got right back in the game.
Dave Bonk won a draw in the right face-off circle and Derlago appeared to surprise DeCaro with a quick backhander that went between his legs with 3:25 left in the period.