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Spitfires’ three-goal lead vanishes in 6-3 loss to Firebirds

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A terrific start by the Windsor Spitfires wound up lost by the time the final buzzer sounded on Wednesday.

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Windsor scored the game’s first three goals in the game’s opening 16 minutes, but the Flint Firebirds roared back to secure a 6-3 victory before a crowd 2,623 at the Dort Financial Center.

With the win, the third-seeded Firebirds now lead the Western Conference best-of-seven series final 2-1. Game 4 is Friday in Flint at 7 p.m.

“We knew it as going to be a long series,” Spitfires’ head coach Marc Savard said. “We’ll be ready on Friday.”

But Wednesday was a major missed opportunity for the top-seeded Spitfires. Coming off a five-goal victory at home on Monday, Windsor carried that momentum into the early part of Wednesday’s game.

Daniel D’Amico made a nifty play in front of the net to open the scoring less than seven minutes into the game. First-year forward Oliver Peer flew past three Flint defenders to make it 2-0 less than three minutes later and defenceman Michael Renwick pushed the lead to 3-0 with a goal on a delayed penalty to Flint.

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The Spitfires had a chance to build on that lead with a power-play opportunity late in the opening period, but the Firebirds forced a turnover and Ethan Hay pushed home a short-handed goal to get Flint to within 3-1 after the first period.

“Obviously, a great start,” Savard said. “We had a good first (period).”

But like a heavyweight fighter taking a punch, that short-handed goal seemed to stagger the Spitfires, who watched the Firebirds hold a 22-9 edge in shots in the second period and score three-unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.

“They came out hard in the second,” Savard said.

Luca D’Amato’s point shot found the back of the net to make it a one-goal game and Ethan Keppen scored on a rebound with two seconds left on a Flint power play to tie the game. It was Flint’s first power-play goal in 10 chances in the series.

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Braeden Kressler got the go-ahead goal late in the period on a play the Spitfires challenged for goaltender interference. The goal would stand after a lengthy review by referees Mike Hamilton and Morgan MacPhee.

“I still think that goal was questionable and kind of flipped the game,” Savard said. “First, (Hamilton) told me (Kressler) tripped over (Andrew) Perrott’s stick and second he said (Spitfires’ goalie Matt) Onuska put him in headlock. He’s in the crease and Onuska can’t make his move.” 

From there, Flint followed the same game plan the team used to take the series opener in Windsor where the Firebirds rode a one-goal lead into the final period and held on to win it.

On Wednesday, the Spitfires dominated the final period, but could not put another puck past Firebirds’ goalie Luke Cavallin, who made 37 saves with Flint holding a 45-40 advantage overall.

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That final period featured a trio of Windsor power-play chances. After scoring with the man advantage in each of the first two games of the series while going three-for-10 overall, the Spitfires came up empty on five chances in Wednesday’s game while giving up the short-handed goal.

“It was not from a lack of looks,” Savard said. “We have to get more traffic in front. It’s a simple thing and we have to want to do it.”

Windsor brought Onuska, who finished with 39 saves, to the bench with over two minutes left to play in the third period, but could not produce a quality chance to get even.

Flint sealed the win with a pair of empty-net goals in the final minute of the game. Sahil Panwar got the first and Keppen added his second of the game for the Firebirds, who will now look to take a stranglehold on Friday in Game 4 of the series.

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Game Summary

Wednesday Result

Firebirds 6 Spitfires 3

Windsor 3 0 0 – 3

Flint 1 3 2 – 6

First period: 1. Windsor, D’Amico 3 (Maggio, Renwick) 6:30, 2. Windsor, Peer 3 (Sobolev, Ribau) 9:06, 3. Windsor, Renwick 3 (Abraham, Maggio) 15:45, 4. Flint, Hay 1 (Kressler, Kuzmin) 17:51 (sh). Penalties: Perrott W (checking from behind) 9:39, Currie W (fighting), Piercey F (fighting) 16:06, Petrou F (too many men) 17:19.

Second period: 5. Flint, D’Amato 2 (Keppen, Kressler) 5:27, 6. Flint, Keppen 6 (Deline, Lombardi) 13:21 (pp), 7. Flint, Kreşsler 4 (unassisted) 17:20. Penalties: O’Flaherty W (unsportsmanlike conduct), Bertuzzi F (unsportsmanlike conduct) 6:51, D’Amato F (roughing) 9:34, Johnston W (hooking) 11:23, Henault W (high sticking) 18:12.

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Third period: 8. Flint, Panwar 4 (Othmann) 19:19 (en). Penalties: Panwar F (slashing) :37, Keppen F (slashing) 5:27, Deline F (delay of game) 12:05, Cuylle W (misconduct), Perrott W (misconduct), Keppen F (misconduct), Piercey F (misconduct) 19:56. 

Game stats – SOG – Windsor 15 9 16 – 40 Flint 13 22 10 – 45 Goal (shots-saves) – Windsor: Onuska (L,9-4-1) (43-39). Flint: Cavallin (W,10-5-0) (40-37). Power play (goals-chances) – Windsor 0-5. Flint 1-3. Referees: Mike Hamilton (8) and Morgan MacPhee (11). Linesmen: Kevin Hastings (61) and Justin Noble (80). Att.: 2,623 at Dort Financial Center.

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