Orlando's Mickey Lang missed one chance to tie the game. Fortunately for him and the Solar Bears, he didn't miss the next one.
Or the game-winner.
Lang tied the game with 9.8 seconds remaining in regulation, then hammered home the game-winner just 70 seconds into overtime as the Solar Bears rallied from three deficits to pull out a 5-4 victory against the Gwinnett Gladiators in ECHL action Saturday night at Amway Center.
The second-largest home crowd of the season, announced at 8,758, saw the Solar Bears (28-16-1-2, 59 points) extend their winning streak to six games and finish 6-0-0-0 at home against Gwinnett (18-28-2-2, 40) as the teams closed out their season series. Orlando, which improved to 10-0-1-0 in its last 11 home games, finished 8-2-0-2 against the Gladiators.
"They're [Gwinnett] a hard team to play against," said Orlando coach Vince Williams, whose team trailed 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3. "They have good players up front. They have experience up front.
"We needed to finish it out, grind it out. We came back twice at the end and executed when we needed to execute. At the end of the day we needed those two points [for winning] bad."
Nowhere was that execution more apparent than overtime when Lang took a feed from Cody Wild and blasted home his first game-winning goal of the season from the left circle. Minutes earlier, Lang had a wide-open look for the game-tying goal but shot high. But the Solar Bears kept the puck in the zone and Lang found himself with another chance. The ECHL's leading goal scorer took a pass from Jacob Cepis and beat Gwinnett goalie Scott Stajcer just inside the left post.
Lang, who has 29 goals, said he would trade his recent four-goal performance for a game-winner every time.
"Sometimes those [four] goals come when you're ahead by a lot, and you're taking chances. But it's more important to tie the game up and get into overtime," Lang said. "From our back end all the way to our defensemen to our forwards to our fans, you know 8,000 people here tonight, you want to send them home with a win."
Taylor Matson registered two goals and an assist, giving him nine points in his last four games, while Wild added a goal and two assists for the Solar Bears, who outshot the Gladiators 44-41.
A wild second period saw Gwinnett build a 3-1 lead only to see Orlando rally. After Marshall Everson's second goal of the game gave the Gladiators that two-goal edge, the Solar Bears finally ended Stajcer's streak of 18 straight saves in the period when Wild knocked home a puck in mid-air for a goal at 13 minutes, 56 seconds. Matson then scored from between the circles for his eighth goal of the season to make it 3-3.
Gwinnett got on the board just 1:37 into the game when an interference penalty set up a power-play goal by Everson. Casey Pierro-Zabotel threw the puck to the front of the net and Solar Bears goalie Cody Reichard moved out of the crease to stop the shot. But Everson quickly collected the puck and found the open net with an easy backhanded shot.
The Solar Bears had an apparent goal by Matson disallowed later in the period when officials ruled the goal had been moved off the post before the puck crossed the line. A minute later they secured the tying goal when Matson redirected a wrist shot from the left circle by Tyler Murovich in a 4-on-4 situation.