Skipjacks blow 3 leads, lose in OT, 5-4 Goal late in 2nd sparks St. John's


The Baltimore Skipjacks continue to have problems winning a hockey game.

Baltimore, which has won only once in its past nine games (1-6-2), dropped a 5-4 overtime game to the St. John's Maple Leafs yesterday before 2,325 at the Baltimore Arena.

Three times the Skipjacks led in the game, but St. John's, which leads the Atlantic Division, rallied each time to tie or take the lead.

At 2 minutes and 13 seconds of sudden-death overtime, Yanic Perreault knocked the rebound of a shot by Greg Johnston past goalie Byron Dafoe for the victory.

"Our defense was keeping the puck in the offensive zone and someone took a shot," said Perreault, who scored his 26th goal of the season. "I was in front of the goal and I just tried to put the puck on net and it went in. This was a very nice win for us. Baltimore has a good team, but we played just a little bit better today."

Despite the loss, the Skipjacks held onto first place in the Southern Division of the AHL. Baltimore has a two-point lead over the second-place Hershey Bears, who were idle yesterday.

"The St. John's goalie [Damian Rhodes, who had 36 saves] played very well," said the Skipjacks' Brent Hughes. "We got a lot of scoring opportunities in the first period and he stopped us. He was very good again in the third period, when we could have put the game away."

The first two periods featured fast skating, hard hitting and clutch scoring as the teams battled to a 3-3 tie.

The Skipjacks took an early lead on Hughes' breakaway goal, but St. John's rallied with power-play goals by Rob Pearson and Andrew McKim for a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.

St. John's lost defenseman Joel Quenneville, who played for the Skipjacks last season, to major cross-checking and game-misconduct penalties in the second period. The major led to Baltimore's only power-play goal in eight chances.

Baltimore got goals in the second period from Simon Wheeldon, who carried the puck in from center ice and scored from close range, and Reggie Savage, who deflected a shot from the point by Mark Ferner into the cage for a 3-2 lead during a power play.

A failure to clear the puck from the left corner enabled St. John's to tie the score with two seconds remaining as Johnston fired a shot from the left circle past Dafoe.

"That goal with two seconds to go seemed to give St. John's life," said Skipjacks coach Rob Laird. "It seemed to give them the energy they needed. Their goalie came up big for them in the last period. We had our chances, but we didn't take advantage of them. I'd have liked to see us capitalize more on our power-play chances."

Ferner's goal, off a perfect cross-slot pass from Trevor Halverson, gave the Skipjacks a 4-3 lead at 3:03 of the third period. Brad Aitken, sliding the puck under Dafoe's pads at 4:10, retied the score at 4 and forced a five-minute overtime period.

"Both goalies played very well," said the Skipjacks' John Purves. "It came down to a matter of who got the break and it turned out to be St. John's. They got the big bounce and we didn't."

NOTES: The Skipjacks yesterday recalled Dafoe (6-4-0, 2.78 goals-against average) from Hampton Roads of the ECHL and received D Shawn Chambers from the Washington Capitals on reconditioning assignment. G Jim Hrivnak was scratched last night with a bruised arm and is expected to join the Capitals next week for Washington's western road trip. Also missing for Baltimore were RW Steve Seftel (knee), D Bobby Babcock (wrist) and RW Jeff Greenlaw (shoulder). . . . St. John's also has personnel problems. The Maple Leafs were down to one goalie, Rhodes, so the team's trainer, Brent Smith, was signed to a tryout contract and served as backup goalie last night. . . . Among the luminaries in attendance last night were Terry Murray, Capitals coach; David Poile, Capitals general manager; Marcel Pelletier, Boston Bruins scout; Bill Barber, Philadelphia Flyers scout; Les Jackson, Minnesota North Stars scout; and Brian Burke, vice president of the Vancouver Canucks.

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