Toronto Maple Leafs' Joey Crabb manages to score as the puck trickles under New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the second period on March 25. REUTERS
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Courtesy Canadian Press:
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – Brian Connelly finally rediscovered his scoring touch for the Abbotsford Heat.
The offensively gifted defenceman scored with 11.9 seconds to go in overtime to lead the Heat to a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Wolves Friday night in American Hockey League action.
Connelly took a feed from Ben Walter and beat Matt Climie glove side for his sixth of the season.
“It all started in the D-zone,” said Connelly. “We created a turnover and I saw an opportunity to jump in. Wally (Ben Walter) made a good pass across the ice. I just tried to put it on net and it went in.”
It was his first goal in 23 games since the Calgary Flames acquired him in a trade for Brendan Morrison. When he joined the Heat he was second among AHL defencemen in points but has just nine assists for the Flames’ affiliate.
“I’ve been trying to create opportunities and get shots but they haven’t been going in,” said Connelly. “It’s good to get that off my back and hopefully it springboards me into the rest of the season.”
Greg Nemisz, Krys Kolanos and Clay Wilson all scored in regulation time for Abbotsford (36-26-8). Though the Heat blew a 3-1 lead, goalie Leland Irving made 28 saves, including all 10 over the final 25 minutes to preserve the win. Abbotsford now has a two-point cushion in fourth place in the Western Conference standings.
Darren Haydar, Kevin Connauton, and Mark Mancari scored for Chicago (38-25-6), which includes former Tiger Bill Sweatt.
Climie stopped 40 shots for the Wolves, who moved within three points of second-place Toronto by earning a single point for the overtime loss.
“I think there were a lot of positives,” said Mancari. “I think it was pretty close to a playoff game, if you look at how the game was played. We made a few mistakes we didn’t want to make, and goals that resulted from us not getting the puck out.”
Part of the reason for the playoff atmosphere was the 7,044 fans at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, just the fourth sellout all time and first since Nov. 2010. Many of the fans came to cheer on the Wolves, however, the nearby Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate.
“The majority of them are Canucks fans so it’s a little different,” said Abbotsford’s Jon Rheault. “But when you can feed off that energy, energy is energy and when this place is full it’s a lot of fun to play in front of. They’re a dangerous team when they’re playing for their brass and all their scouts are here so they obviously bring a little extra oomph, if you will, when they come here.”