By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
TRENTON – When the foundation starts crumbling everything looks shaky.
That was the case yesterday during Game 4 of the Kelly Cup Finals, when Titans goalie Andrew Allen (pictured) started to show serious cracks in what had been an impenetrable wall.
Allen started to fall apart against the Florida Everblades, and the crowd of 7,126 could only watch as the Everblades skated away with a 6-3 victory.
The best of seven-series is now tied 2-2, with Game 5 at 5 p.m. Monday at Sovereign Bank Arena. The road team has won all four games in this series.
The Everblades’ victory ensures a trip back to Florida for Game 6 on Wednesday.
Florida broke the game open with three third-period goals, sending Allen to the bench in favor of Chris Houle with 8:46 left in the third period.
Allen, who stopped 77 out of 78 shots in the first two games of the series – Titans wins in Florida – allowed six goals last night for a two-game total of 11 at Sovereign Bank Arena.
The huge crowd felt like it was walking on egg shells going into the third period after two soft goals allowed the Everblades to tie the game, 3-3.
The eggs cracked when David Lundbohm sent a wrist shot through Allen’s pads to give the Everblades a 4-3 lead with 12:03 left in the third. It got worse when Paul Cabana snapped a shot over Allen’s shoulder less than a minute later to make the score 5-3. Reggie Berg ended Allen’s evening when he sent a wrist shot off the goalie’s glove and into the net with 8:46 left in the third to give the Everblades a three-goal cushion.
“No excuses,” said Allen. “I really can’t explain it. I have no answers. All I can say is the series is 2-2. I felt good going into the third. I think we all did. A bad goal at a bad time and it kind of snowballed on us.”
The third period meltdown marked the second straight night the Titans gave up a two-goal lead in their own building.
The Titans went from feeling pretty good about the second period to feeling sick to their stomachs in a span of 2 1/2 minutes.
They were leading 3-1 when Tim O’Connell stunned Allen with a slap shot nearly from center ice to cut the Titans’ lead 3-2 with 6:01 left in the second. They tied it 3-3 with 3:39 left in the third period on a goal nearly as bad as O’Connell’s, when Damian Surma scored on a turn-around wrist shot from the near the Everblades bench.
“We have to figure out a way to get back on the winning track,” said Titans coach Mike Haviland. “We have to go back to basics and simplifying our game. That third period just went downhill. I thought for the first 40 minutes we were playing pretty good. We have to keep everything positive. We have one game at home we need to win. That is our focus now.”
The Titans looked like they had stabilized things and were getting quality chances on Everblades goalie Tyler MacKay after Florida had cut the Titans’ lead to 2-1 on a Lundbohm goal with 17:34 left in the second period.
The Titans came right back with Scott Bertoli taking a pass from Nick Deschenes and sliding a backhand just inside the post with 16:09 left in the second to give the Titans a 3-1 advantage.
Bertoli had several great chances after his goal, but a partial breakaway was broken up by Brad Fast, and later MacKay made a pad save on a deflection of a Jerramie Domish shot before things turned south for Allen.
It didn’t take the Titans long to get their power play working after going 1-for-9 in Game 3. Thirteen seconds into their first opportunity last night they took a 1-0 lead when Michael Schutte feathered a wrist shot from the point past a screened MacKay for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
The Titans took a 2-0 lead with 4:17 left in the first period. Just after killing an elbowing penalty on Leon Hayward, Hayward raced out of the penalty box, picked up a loose puck behind the Florida net and sent a backhand pass to a wide-open Nick Deschenes, who sent a shot past MacKay from the top of the slot.
Deschenes was back in the lineup after picking up a boarding major and game misconduct in Game 3. The penalty was reviewed, but was not deemed worthy of a suspension . . . One night after setting a Sovereign Bank Arena playoff attendance record, the Titans did it again last night. The 7,126 who took in last night’s game topped the 6,350 who filled the arena for Game 3. Prior to this series, the previous mark was 4,968, set on May 5, 2000, for Game 4 of the Northern Conference Finals against the Peoria Rivermen.