By Ed Reed
TRENTON, N.J. — The Florida Everblades found their offense.
Who knew it was waiting for them in Trenton?
The Blades erupted for five unanswered goals to erase a two-goal deficit and chase once unbeatable Trenton Titans goalie Andrew Allen in a 6-3 ECHL Kelly Cup Finals Game 4 victory at Sovereign Bank Arena on Saturday night.
The victory tied the best-of-7 series at two games apiece and assures the Blades of a return trip to Germain Arena next Wednesday for Game 6. But first will come Game 5 on Monday in Trenton and one team will head back to Florida a game away from winning the league title.
“We’ve had composure all year long and this was our toughest test of the year here these last couple of games, and we got the job done,” said Florida forward Brad Church. “Instead of being down 3-0 or 3-1, we’re sitting at a tied series. We’ve been playing well, but we have a long road ahead of us. We’re only halfway there.”
After dropping the first two games of the series in Estero by a combined score of 9-1, Florida scored a combined 11 goals in Game 3 and 4 wins on the Titans’ home ice. Not only that, but the Blades scored nine of those goals in a 57-minute, 39-second span, starting with 5:05 left in the third period Friday, when trailing 4-2, to midway through the third period Saturday. And the goals were coming from all over the ice.
Tim O’Connell started the five-goal run with a shot from just inside the center ice line. The nearly 90-foot blast somehow beat Allen’s pad and glove at 13:59 of the second period to cut Florida’s deficit to 3-2. Damian Surma tied the game 2:22 later when his shot from the left boards deflected off a Trenton player in front.
Florida broke the game open in the third period with three more goals, by Lundbohm, his second of the game; Paul Cabana; and Reggie Berg.
“I think it’s just getting traffic, shooting through screens, getting traffic,” Surma (pictured) said. “It’s hard for any goalie to keep playing like he was playing. I think it’s a testament to the guys. We knew what we had to do to come in here and we’ve been doing it and things have been going our way.”
Berg’s score at 11:14 of the third period prompted Trenton to pull Allen after he surrendered six goals on 38 shots.
“He’s been so good for so long,” Titans coach Mike Haviland said of Allen. “It’s a 3-3 game in the third and one (goal) was from the red line and one was tipped in by our guy, so you think about things, but he’s our guy.”
The Blades used two goals in a 51-second span of Game 3 to force overtime. Saturday night, it was a two-goal spurt in 53 seconds of the third period that broke open the game. Lundbohm scored first when his shot from inside the left circle snuck under Allen at 7:57. Cabana scored next as he took a perfect pass from defenseman Brad Fast in the slot and buried a one-timer under the crossbar at 8:50.
The first period was dominated by bad Florida decisions that squelched Blades’ scoring chances and directly led to a pair of Trenton goals as the Titans took a 2-0 lead into the second period.
Florida defenseman Ryan Brindley took a slashing penalty just 1:02 into the game. The Titans needed just 13 seconds to convert the power play into a goal as Michael Schutte fired a shot from the high slot that beat Florida goalie Tyler MacKay to the top corner at 1:15.
O’Connell turned over a clearing attempt late in the period to Titans forward Leon Hayward. Hayward quickly passed to teammate Nick Deschenes in front of MacKay, and he buried a shot at 15:43.
Florida came out firing in the second period and quickly scored its first goal. Lundbohm won an offensive zone face-off to Ernie Hartlieb. Hartlieb passed to Steve Saviano in the left circle and Saviano’s shot glanced off Lundbohm, who had cut to the front of the net, and went in at 2:26.
Trenton wasted little time regaining its two-goal lead when Florida forgot to put a body on the Titans’ Scott Bertoli in front of MacKay. Bertoli scored on a one-timer at 3:51 to make it 3-1.
But just like in Friday’s Game 3, Trenton could not hold a 3-1 second-period lead.
O’Connell showed off the power of his slap shot to the surprise of Allen. O’Connell, skating through center ice, released a shot from the bottom of the center-ice circle that beat Allen low to his glove side at 13:59.
“I was tired, so I was just trying to get a change. … I was just trying to throw it on net and it was rolling a little bit and got a lucky bounce,” O’Connell said of his first playoff goal of the year.
“It went over his pad and knuckled down.”