After peppering Milwaukee Admirals' goalie Pekka Rinne with 37 shots and coming up empty in Game 4, the Wolves had to wonder if Rinne was beginning to get inside their heads.
"When a goaltender's playing really good, it's psychological against our shooters where they don't shoot," Wolves' coach John Anderson said. "We just talk about … keep shooting pucks at the net. We have a bunch of guys who can score and thread the needle."
Those guys showed up early Thursday night, as Wolves scored four goals through two periods and kept the Admirals off the scoreboard until the closing seconds of the game en route to a 4-1 victory in Game 5 of the opening round of the AHL Western Conference playoffs at Allstate Arena. The victory gave the Wolves a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series.
The four goals in regulation marked the Wolves best offensive output of the series. The team had scored only 2.25 goals per game through the first four contests of the playoffs after averaging an AHL leading 3.75 during the regular season.
Brett Sterling ignited the offense, taking a Jason Krog pass and firing a wrist shot to the top corner for a 1-0 advantage just 1 minute 59 seconds into game.
"I couldn't have planned it any better," Sterling said. "Sometimes you get the puck to go exactly where you want it, and that's what happened tonight."
The Wolves added another first period goal when a Nathan Oystrick slap shot caromed off of the glass and bounced off the top of the goal where a streaking Darren Haydar poked it past the crossbar. Brian Fahey and Joe Motzko added second period goals to extend the lead to 4-0.
The Wolves appeared poised for a shutout until Mark Matheson launched a long slap shot past Wolves' goalie Ondrej Pavelec with less than 10 seconds left. Pavelec had saved 26 shots before the last one slipped through.
The Wolves will try to close out the series on the road in Game 6 Saturday in Milwaukee.