Tyler Carlson made 49 saves on 54 shots and Callum Crawford had eight points as the Minnesota Swarm (4-7) snapped their three-game losing streak and the three-game winning streak of the West Division-leading Washington Stealth (7-5) with a 12-5 home win at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.
“It’s nice when you can see all the balls coming at you,” Carlson said. “Our defense played well and our offense definitely played a heck of a game.”
The Stealth opened the scoring 6:34 into the game but the Swarm forward Callum Crawford responded 1:12 later with two goals in two minutes for a 2-1 lead after the first quarter.
Washington tied the game 2:45 into second quarter but would not score for the next 32 minutes. Minnesota ended the first half on a four-goal run, capped off by two more goals from Crawford 17 seconds apart for a 6-2 lead at the break.
Crawford, serving as the team's interim captain after Andrew Suitor was lost for the season with a knee injury, said that the offense fed off the defense's success.
“The confidence that we get to have is through the roof,” he said. “They’re playing unbelievable defense. Carlson’s shutting the door better than anybody I’ve ever seen. That gives us some composure to let us work the ball around.”
Swarm forward Jay Card scored an impressive goal 29 seconds into the second half while tumbling down to the turf for the only goal of the third quarter as Minnesota led 7-2 after 45 minutes of play.
Minnesota’s Josh Gillam opened the fourth-quarter scoring in his season debut as the teams traded goals before a three-goal Swarm run made it 12-4 with 3:33 left.
Crawford finished with a game-high eight points (4+4), Jordan MacIntosh had five points (0+5) and a game-high 12 loose balls and Ryan Benesch had four points (3+1).
Stealth goalie Tyler Richards was strong with 48 saves on 60 shots, Rhys Duch had a team-high four points (2+2) while Lewis Ratcliff (1+1) was the only other Washington player with a multi-point game.
“[The Swarm] were real good,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “Giving up seven goals in three quarters in this league, I think you’ve got to say ‘shoot, you should be in the game.'"
The .907 save percentage by Carlson was the best by an NLL goalie in a complete game so far this season. Two milestones were hit tonight as Crawford became the Swarm’s all-time assist leader (202) while Benesch became the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer (132).
“We’re like a match made in heaven,” Benesch said. “I’ve enjoyed my time with him and hopefully it continues.”
The win marked Minnesota’s first victory without Andrew Suitor, as they had gone 0-5 without him in the lineup.
“It kind of gets the monkey off of our back,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “Can we do it without [Suitor's] leadership and his toughness and his abilities? We can. It’s definitely tougher. It’s not going to be an easy road without him being here.”
The Stealth missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth as a win this weekend would have ensured them a spot in the postseason after missing out last year with a 4-12 record.
Washington's power play struggled all night. The unit scored on just one of their five man-advantage attempts and allowed a shorthanded goal while coming up empty on a 5-on-3 opportunity to open the second half.
“That was tragic,” Hall said. “We were handed an opportunity to get ourselves back in the game when the offense had been struggling. That was strictly on the offense. Quite frankly, that’s embarrassing. That’s ridiculous.”
Washington's five goals were the fewest scored by an NLL team so far this season and the fewest allowed by Minnesota since they allowed five to the Colorado Mammoth on Feb. 20, 2010.
“We need to come in here and play real hard and I don’t think we did that tonight,” Hall said. “Any night you come to the rink in this league without a huge, hard work ethic, then you can expect to get handed your stick and away you go with a loss.”