CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Lake Erie Monsters blitzed the Ontario Reign with three first period goals on way to a 4-0 shutout and commanding 3-0 Western Conference Finals lead.
The defending champs were once again dazed by swift Lake Erie strikes, this time ceding three goals in just 4:27. In Game Two, Ontario gave up two in 12 seconds, while in Game One, three in 2:12.
This must all feel like a broken record for Head Coach Mike Stothers, who repeated three times after the game, "You turn the puck over, they score a goal."
The LP began skipping just six minutes in, as Oliver Bjorkstrand intercepted an ill-advised Michael Mersch neutral zone breakout up the middle. The shifty Dane then avoided a Mersch and Kurtis MacDermid sandwich, cutting to the slot for a seeing-eye backhand.
1:50 later, Sonny Milano surprised Vinny LoVerde, who was looking for options up the ice, with a quick, jarring stick. Defensive chaos ensued, and blueliner Steve Eminger returned the favor to an unmarked Milano for a lay-up tip in the slot.
The wheels came off 2:37 later, as Andrew Crescenzi lost the puck on zone entry to Eminger, who quickly moved it up to Kerby Rychel. Rychel found a seam between Kevin Gravel and MacDermid, springing Josh Anderson for a successful breakaway on a besieged Peter Budaj.
An underrated difference-maker tonight was Budaj's counterpart, Anton Forsberg, who made any Reign opportunities his own. While the Bastien Award winner certainly faced more harrowing challenges, they actually dealt with an equal number of even strength scoring chances for the game at 13 apiece.
Fittingly, it would be another turnover that would doom Ontario. Late in the second period, Bjorkstrand mugged Kris Newbury in the neutral zone, and Markus Hannikainen scooped home the resulting rebound. Budaj would not come out for the final frame, only the second time this season that he's been chased.
The Reign will continue to try to scratch some music out of a broken record this Thursday evening, as LoVerde doubled down on similar proclamations we've heard after every Ontario loss in this series.
"We need to simplify, get pucks deep...Chipping pucks, and going from there. Just simplify a little bit, get back to the basics."