Michael McLeod netted two but the Mississauga Steelheads still fell to the Saginaw Spirit 4-3 in a shootout at the Hershey Centre in OHL action Friday night.
McLeod, who has struggled to score so far this season, had two highlight reel goals including the third period tying marker where he took the puck from behind his own net and brought it over the Saginaw (3-5-1-1) blue line before shooting it past Spirit goaltender Evan Cormier glove side.
It was the first game in 12 days at the Hershey Centre for the Steelheads (5-5-0-2) who returned from a four-game road trip where they went 2-2, including a 5-2 win over the Ottawa 67’s in the nation’s capital Wednesday night.
Steelheads put the pressure on the Spirit early in the first registering four shots including a post by forward Daniel Muzito-Bagenda off a nice feed from defencemen Jared Walsh.
But that intensity soon shifted after Steelhead’s Jason Smith took a penalty for tripping. Spirit would take advantage on the ensuing power play with Dylan Sadowy burying the rebound off a point shot from Markus Niemelainen at 4:53.
The power play goal given up by the Steelheads is a rarity as they lead the OHL on the penalty kill at 95.1 per cent. On the other hand the Spirit has the league’s worst power play at 6.5 per cent.
Spirit wouldn’t be done in the first, building off the momentum from their power play, Kris Bennett would blow around Walsh taking the puck from his backhand to his forehand and sliding it past Zanussi for his first of the season at 9:45.
Trailing isn’t unusual
Finding themselves down early in the game isn’t something new for the Steelheads who often give up the first goal, and is a habit that coach James Boyd would like them to break.
“It’s a hard league to come from behind and we put ourselves in this positions, we need to play with a more consistent effort.”
After a couple of missed opportunities from both teams in the second, Michael McLeod put the Steelheads on the board at 17:11 coming out of the box and capitalizing after finding himself on a breakaway.
The forward has struggled scoring goals this season, only registering two entering the game, so for him adding two more was a load off of his shoulders.
“I was fortunate to get a couple of bounces today and score a couple of goals,” McLeod said after the game. “I mean, scoring is always fun and it’s just a confidence builder.”
Saginaw would reply 30 seconds after McLeod’s first with Kris Bennett’s second goal of the season and game shooting the puck past goaltender Cameron Zanussi.
Mississauga made it a one-goal game twenty-four seconds into the third on a power-play goal by Josh Burnside who deflected a shot from the point from Sean Day.
After McLeod’s fourth of the season tied it, it was all Steelheads with the Spirit on their toes, taking a couple of penalties late in the third. Regulation would end with two Spirit players in the box and the usual 3-on-3 overtime would start 5-on-3 for the Steelheads.
Mississauga couldn’t take advantage of the power play opportunity and the game would go to a shout out after both goaltenders standing on their heads to keep their respective teams in the game.
The shoot-out went into extra rounds as both teams went 2-for-3 in the first round. But it was Brady Gilmour who netted the winner for the Spirit in the fifth snapping their four-game losing streak.
Zanussi had 24 saves for the Steelheads while Cormier had 29 for Saginaw.
This was the second meeting between the two teams with the Steelheads coming out victorious in a 5-4 overtime win back in Saginaw earlier in the season.
The Steelheads will stay home this weekend and will play the North Bay Battalion Sunday at 2 p.m.
Saginaw Spirit will continue their road trip and take on the Erie Otters on Saturday.