By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Redemption.
In less than 24 hours, South Carolina rookie Nikita Kashirsky went from goat to hero and oh, what a feeling it was Sunday night for the Moscow native.
Kashirsky scored with 35.5 seconds left in regulation as the Stingrays rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat Florida, 4-3, in Game 5 of their South Division series before a crowd of 2,195 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays grabbed a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and can eliminate the Brabham Cup winners with a victory Tuesday night in Game 6 in Estero, Fla.
It was Kashirsky’s clearing attempt that sailed over the glass in the second overtime of Game 4 on Saturday night that led to a Florida power play and eventually the game-winning goal.
Kashirsky was nearly inconsolable after Game 4, but all was forgiven when the former Norwich University star got the game-winner Sunday night.
“It definitely feels great to score that goal,” said a beaming Kashirsky after the game. “In Game 4, I took a penalty in overtime when I shot the puck over the glass and they scored the wining goal. I was really upset after the game, I was really down on myself. But this goal definitely brought me back up, it feels great.”
Kashirsky’s game-winner came after a too many men on the ice penalty on Florida as the Stingrays got a power play with 44 seconds left in regulation.
The Everblades were trying to clear the puck out of the Stingrays’ zone along the boards when South Carolina captain Brad Farynuk somehow managed to keep it in. The puck bounced off Everblades defenseman Brad Zannon and onto the stick of Kashirsky.
Kashirsky stepped past Zannon, got into the slot and, falling down, got a wrist shot that beat Florida goalie David Leggio for the score.
The Stingrays’ bench erupted and Kashirsky was mobbed by his teammates.
“It was a great play by (Farynuk) to keep the puck in,” Kashirsky said. “I think their defenseman decided to take a chance and help out. The puck came back to me and I tried to make a move, and when I felt like I didn’t have any more room, I decided to put it on net and it went in as I was falling down.”
“That’s kind of a forgotten goal because of what Nikita did,” said South Carolina coach Jared Bednar. “Maxime has been a little snakebit and to come up with a goal like that in that situation was huge for us.”
Thirty minutes into the game, it looked like the Eveblades were going to be laughing all the way home to Florida.
The Everblades were up 3-0 after Kevin Baker‘s wrap-around goal with 9:49 left in the second period.
“I thought we played our worst period of the playoffs in the first period,” Bednar said. “It looked like we were defeated team even though we said all the right things in the locker room. We had a talk about it during the first intermission, and I think the guys realized we’d worked too hard the last eight months to just give up on this thing because Florida won a double overtime game on Saturday night.”
Two keys in the second period were the physical play of Farynuk, who set the tone with a half-dozen bone-crushing hits, and goalie Jonathan Boutin, who recovered from a bad first period to make several key saves.
After giving a soft goal to Ernie Harlieb on the Everblades’ first goal, Boutin responded with four huge saves to keep the Stingrays in it. No save was bigger than the stop Boutin made on Baker’s breakaway in the second period.