Nick Palmieri scored his second goal of the game with just over one minute remaining in double overtime to give the Belleville Bulls a 3-2 victory over the Brampton Battalion Thursday night at the Yardmen Arena. Belleville now trails the Eastern Conference Championship series 3-2 with game six in Brampton on Friday night. Mike Murphy was spectacular in the win, stopping a career high 54 shots. The Bulls are now 3-0 in overtime in the 2009 playoffs.
The game got off to an ominous start for the Bulls, as they lost Captain Eric Tangradi to injury. Tangradi suffered a cut hand in the opening minute of play and did not return. Belleville was able to open the scoring just 51 seconds into the game when Palmieri banked a shot off Battalion goaltender Thomas McCollum from behind the net. Cory Tanaka and P.K. Subban assisted on Palmieri’s 11th goal of the postseason.. Brampton skated hard throughout the opening frame, forcing Murphy to make several great stops to hold the lead. Shots on goal in the first period were 15-5 in favour of the Battalion.
Brampton was able to tie the score just 53 seconds into the second period when Cody Hodgson finished a beautiful passing play with Matt Kang by sliding the puck into the empty corner of the Belleville net. The two sides traded chances during the period, as both Murphy and McCollum were solid when call upon. The Bulls were able to restore their one goal lead on the power play with six and a half minutes remaining in the middle frame when the puck bounced off Matt Tipoff and past McCollum following a Subban point shot. Subban and Brandon Mashinter assisted on Tipoff’s second goal of the playoffs. The Battalion were again able to tie the score with just ten seconds remaining in the second period when Evgeny Grachev snapped a hard shot past Murphy following a Hodgson faceoff victory. Shots on goal in the second period were 13-12 Brampton.
The two sides played a scoreless third period that saw the Battalion enjoy the majority of the quality scoring chances. Murphy continued his sensational play to force overtime. Brampton did appear to go ahead with just over seven minutes remaining in the third period when Hodgson fired a puck past Murphy but the goal was disallowed after the referees ruled that Kang had interfered with the Belleville goaltender. Shots on goal in the third period favoured the Battalion 9-5, as the game headed to overtime for the first time in the series.
The Bulls appeared to end the game early in the first overtime period when Mashinter snapped a wicked shot past McCollum but the goal was disallowed, as the referees ruled that there was incidental contact between the Brampton goaltender and Cory Tanaka. Murphy was excellent in the first overtime period, making several great saves to prevent the Battalion from ending the series. Brampton outshot the Bulls 11-5 in the period.
Belleville enjoyed a power play early in the second overtime period but were unable to capitalize. Both teams then settled into a very defensive style with very few quality scoring opportunities during the fifth period of play. Palmieri ended the game on the power play with just over one minute remaining in double overtime when he jammed a rebound from a Nick Pageau point shot between the pads of McCollum. Subban also earned his third assist of the night on Palmieri’s 12th goal of the postseason and seventh in the past three games. Palmieri is now tied for the OHL lead in playoff goals with Windsor Spitfires forward Dale Mitchell. Shots on goal in the second overtime were 10-8 Belleville but overall favoured the Battalion 56-37.
Murphy enjoyed his best game on the playoffs, making 54 saves to earn the victory while McCollum was also very strong, stopping 34 shots in a losing effort. Belleville finished the game two for nine on the power play while holding Brampton scoreless in four opportunities with the man advantage. The three stars of the game were Palmieri, Murphy, and Hodgson. Bulls forwards Cory Tanaka and Bryan Cameron played in their 58th career playoff game with Belleville in the win, setting a new franchise record. The previous record of 57 career playoff games with the Bulls had been held by Nathan Robinson, Randy Rowe, and Michael Jacobsen. The series will now shift to Brampton for game six on Friday night. If Belleville is able to force a seventh game, it will be played on Sunday night at the Yardmen Arena.