Flint 4, Ottawa 3

The Ottawa 67’s let a victory slip through their fingers Saturday losing in overtime to the Flint Firebirds at TD place.

The 67’s would start off hot with Mathew Mayich ringing a shot off the crossbar. Seconds later teammate, Caden Kelly’s wrap-around slid inches past Flint’s goal line.

The strong offensive start was exactly what was needed against the high-scoring Firebirds. Although third in their division, they have five players averaging at least a point a game.

Flint’s captain, Zacharie Giroux, is one of those players. Coming into Saturday’s game, he had 31 points in 25 games. He made his presence felt early, stealing the puck off Ottawa’s Brad Gardiner, and forcing Ottawa’s netminder, Max Donoso, to make his first big save of the game in his eighth straight start. His presence in net has been well earned, considering he has averaged a .910 save percentage throughout November. 

Ottawa controlled the first period, with Chris Barlas opening the scoring off a great feed from Will Gerrior. 

The 67’s didn’t stop there. Ottawa’s pressure, featuring forward Charlie Hilton ringing consecutive shots off the post, would lead to the first power play of the game.

Less than a minute into the man-advantage 67’s captain, Luca Pinelli, would convert off a rebound with an assist from defenceman, Henry Mews, his 19th point in 21 games. 

Ottawa would see chances in the second period, including a three on one which fizzled, but something had started to change as the Firebirds were picking up speed and gaining momentum.

A backhand shot off the crossbar would lead to Flint scooping up the rebound to go down to the 67’s end and score one of their own with centre Kaden Pitre beating Donoso far side.

In the dying minutes of the second period, Ottawa was put on the power play but they failed to take advantage.

Ottawa nearly conceded short-handed and was unable to breach Flint’s zone for most of the advantage. They finished the last 30 seconds of their power play in the third period.

To Ottawa’s favor, they would get their third man-advantage as soon as the second ended, thanks to an interference call. And for the third time, it started in Flint’s zone. Again, it amounted to nothing.

Coming into this game, Ottawa was converting about a fifth of the time on the power play. They certainly have the talent to make use of the advantage, but on Saturday the 67’s were unable to capitalize.

That opened the door for Flint and Kaden Pitre scored his second.

TD Place now had a game on their hands. Flint spent a solid 90 seconds cycling the puck in Ottawa’s zone at even strength, chipping away. 

It was a matter of time before Ottawa cracked. With seven minutes to go in the third, right-winger Gavin Hayes gave the Firebirds the lead on an odd man rush.

Ottawa did rebound to tie the match with Gerrior feeding Cooper Foster his 13th of the season.

The final 60 seconds of regulation play might as well have been professional wrestling. It saw the three biggest hits of the game, with bodies crumpled on the ice or suspended in air.  Safe to say the game needed overtime to determine a winner.

Ottawa, much like in the first period, looked promising to start, but no luck.

The last remaining seconds became a mess in front of Flint’s net. But out of the scrum, another turnover was just what they needed.

The Firebirds flew down on an odd man rush with defenceman Marko Stojkov securing the win with 23 seconds left in the overtime. 

Ottawa Dave Cameron was matter-of fact after the game.

“If you turn the puck over, they make you pay. But we found a way to get a point,” he said.

Cameron said he believes the Firebirds are much better than their record.

For Chris Barlas his third goal of the season was special.

Chris Barlas opened the scoring against Flint with his third goal of the season, in a game that he had dedicated to his late grandfather Petros who died recently. [Photo courtesy Tim Austen]

“My grandfather passed away after one of the games we had,” he said. 

Because of the passing of Petros Barlas, the 67’s winger added that he had dedicated the game against Flint to Petros Barlas.

“My grandma, before the game, told me to go score for him, so that’s what I did.”