ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The Abbotsford Heat may have saved their season with a flashy shootout win.
Abbotsford has scored the second fewest goals in the American Hockey League this year and the Grand Rapids Griffins the second most. Despite that, the Heat won 3-2 thanks to their skilled forwards in the shootout.
Krys Kolanos scored top corner on goalie Tom McCollum to give the Heat a 2-1 lead in the shootout. Then, after Landon Ferraro missed the net, Blair Jones scored to clinch the win with a similar shot. Those two came after Sven Baertschi hit the post, aiming for the same location.
"I've got to credit our goalie coach Jordan Sigalet for his scouting report that he drops into a butterfly and his hands are low and tight," said Kolanos. "That leave the upper portions of the net open. If you watch it that's what happened every time."
Kolanos is now 3 for 9 in shootouts this year, while Jones improved to 3 for 3 since being reassigned to Abbotsford by the NHL's Calgary Flames.
"Guys like that, that's their thing and they're good at it," said defenceman Joe Callahan, who has no goals this season. "We all have what we try and contribute to a team, and those guys are good at it. Krys has been great at it all year, and Jonesy's been great since he's been down here. It was great to get a shootout win, because early in the year we lost a lot of those."
Kolanos added a goal in regulation, while Tyler Ruegsegger also scored for Abbotsford (32-30-10), who kept pace with the three clubs they are chasing for the final playoff spot. However, Chicago, Rockford and Milwaukee all have games in hand over the Heat.
Kolanos' third-period goal was his 16th of the season and second in as many games.
"Krys is pretty much a one-trick pony," said Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward. "He's a goal-scorer, and that's what he does. You look for him to get the goal to get ahead…and you look for him to score in the shootout. He came through this weekend in the series like he should come through."
Danny Taylor stopped 32 shots.
"Danny made some saves when he needed to make some saves, and we did some good things in front of him," said Ward.
Chad Billins and Tomas Tatar tallied for Grand Rapids (40-23-7), who still lead the Midwest Division but are now two points back of Toronto for second in the Western Conference.
McCollum made 26 saves.
Grand Rapids broke the scoreless tie with three minutes to go in the first. Billins' one-timer from the top of the circle beat Taylor just inside the post, blocker side, with Andrej Nestrasil and Tomas Tatar screening in front, giving the defenceman 10 goals on the year.
The Griffins, who have the league's eighth-best power play, have scored a man-advantage goal in their past three games.
Abbotsford tied it up with a power-play goal of its own at 7:31 of the second just. Ruegsegger took a pass off the rush from Ben Walter in the high slot, skated to the right face-off dot and backhanded a shot past McCollum for his ninth of the season.
Grand Rapids had a two-man advantage early in the third when both Jones and Brady Lamb were off for clearing the puck over the glass. However the Heat penalty kill held the Griffins at bay, keeping the game knotted at 1.
The Heat took the lead briefly at 11:27 of the third. McCollum lost track of a bouncing puck and Kolanos put it in.
"It was a good play off the draw," said Kolanos. "Jones won the draw, creating a backhand, followed by a scrum where Sylvester had a shot too. It was able to come back around and I was able to grab it from behind the net and a quick wrap."
Tatar tied the game up a couple minutes later. Francis Pare won the draw to Tatar and his quick, hard wrist shot beat Taylor at 13:02, giving him 23 goals on the season.
In overtime it looked like the Griffins had scored with two minutes to go but as the Heat player crashed into his own goalie he also knocked the net off, causing the official to wave off the goal immediately.
Then, with 25 seconds to go in overtime, Jan Mursak looked to have Taylor beat, taking a centring pass just outside the crease, but he steered it an inch wide of the far post, sending the game to a shootout.