By Chris Umpierre
ESTERO, Fla. – The Florida Everblades haven’t lost two consecutive games since Dec. 10-11. Florida’s second line of forwards, Steve Saviano, Paul Cabana and David Lundbohm, are one reason why the Blades have avoided a losing streak.
Pressed with the possibility of losing a second consecutive game Tuesday night, Saviano, Cabana and Lundbohm spearheaded Florida’s attack.
The trio was on the ice for all five goals as the Blades beat the Charlotte Checkers 5-0 in Game 5 of the ECHL American Conference Finals in front of 5,847 at Germain Arena.
Florida has a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 6 will be at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Cricket Arena in Charlotte, N.C.
Saviano had two goals, Cabana had a goal and two assists, and Lundbohm had a goal and two assists.
“We started clicking right when Cabby came over from (the ECHL’s Reading Royals at the trading deadline),” Saviano said. “Cabby’s a great scorer, Luddy’s a great finisher and I just complement them. We just work well together.
“We’ve been playing well but don’t knock the other lines on this team. There’s a lot of depth on this team.”
Florida, which entered Tuesday ranked 12th (6-for-50) on power plays in the ECHL playoffs, scored three power-play goals, including two in the first period. Goalie Tyler MacKay (23 saves) recorded his first shutout of the postseason.
“We knew how important this game was,” Blades forward Brad Church said. “We had some good energy in the dressing room before warm-ups. But the hardest one to get is the last one. We need to be ready Friday.”
Tuesday’s game had 22 penalties, including 14 against Charlotte. That’s quite a disparity from the Finals’ previous four games. Charlotte and Florida, for example, tied an ECHL playoff record by combining for one penalty in Game 3.
Game 4 had just six penalties, three on each team. Charlotte had four penalties in the first period Tuesday.
“That set the tone for the game and Florida did a nice job on the power play,” Checkers coach Derek Wilkinson said. “But in a playoff series, when it’s this late, I’d rather see the players play and let the game go. I didn’t think that happened tonight.”
Charlotte forward Thomas Bellemare was whistled for high-sticking at 1:43 of the first period. Six seconds later, Blades defenseman Ryan Brindley scored a power-play goal to give Florida a 1-0 lead.
Cabana scored another power-play goal when he tipped in a Brindley shot at 13:08 of the first period. Cabana’s goal came 18 seconds after Charlotte defenseman Dave Liffiton’s elbowing penalty.
“It’s funny because Brindley and I had been working on that for a long time. Him taking a slap shot and me tipping in it,” Cabana said.
“After the period, I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, we finally got one.’ “
The Blades dominated the start of the second period, outshooting Charlotte 8-0 to open the frame. The hard work showed on the scoreboard as Florida scored two goals early in the period to build a 4-0 lead.
Saviano scored his first goal of the game 2:59 into the period to give Florida a 3-0 edge. Lundbohm backhanded a pass from behind the goal to set up Saviano, who tapped home the puck inside the crease.
Saviano and Cabana hooked up to give the Blades a 4-0 lead 8:39 into the second period. Moments before he was checked into the boards at Florida’s blue line, Cabana slid a pass up-ice, hitting Saviano in stride. Saviano did the rest, beating Charlotte goalie Alex Westlund for a breakaway goal.
Lundbohm added a power-play goal at 15:43 of the second period for Florida’s final score. The goal came during a 5-on-3 opportunity.
MacKay, who entered Tuesday with a 5-3 record and a 2.92 goals-against average, made the lead stand.”He made a couple of key saves early in the first period,” Blades coach Gerry Fleming said. “We don’t ask our goalies to win games, we ask them to make big saves when we need them. He did that tonight.”