The Washington Stealth overcame an early 6-0 deficit to win a 12-11 comeback thriller against the visiting Edmonton Rush in their first-round West Division Semifinal playoff game at Comcast Arena on Saturday night. (Photo: Richard Olson)
The Washington Stealth are headed back to the West Division Final for the third time in four years after a thrilling 12-11 comeback home win over the Edmonton Rush in their first-round playoff game at Comcast Arena on Saturday night.
“We got a couple breaks which we needed," said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. "Fantastic goaltending, great goals from the defense and the offense finally got the determination to get to the net."
Down 4-0 after the first quarter, 6-0 early in the second quarter and 7-2 at halftime, the Stealth charged back with seven goals in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10-9 after defenseman Mike Grimes scored a buzzer-beater off a Hail Mary pass from goalie Tyler Richards in the final second of the third.
“That was a giant goal for us and [Grimes] has been magic for us all year," Hall said. "It was a giant motivator because now we are within one with a quarter to go."
The Stealth used a three-goal run to start the fourth quarter to go up 12-10 before the Rush pulled within one with 5:12 left. WIth both teams calling timeout with possession in the final minute, the final seconds of the game were a mad scramble as Edmonton tried for the equalizer but failed to tie the game after several shots on net.
“It was just important to follow the ball and stay calm and to just get my body in front of it,” said Richards about his last-second saves. “I made a good save on [Corey Small] and then one of our guys got a piece of the second shot in the middle.”
Stealth forward Rhys Duch, who led the NLL with 45 goals this year, scored four times and finished with six points.
“There is a 'never quit' attiutude that this team has shown in quite a few games this year,” Duch said. “Most of our wins, we’ve been down at some point. We never cruise to an easy win and this was just another example of that.”
Also checking in with multi-goal games for the Stealth were Athan Iannucci and rookie defenseman Tyler Garrison, who finished with the first multi-goal game of his career.
“It’s definitely the biggest win that I’ve ever been a part of,” Garrison said. “It was a crazy game and the boys are feeling excited right now.”
Rush forward Corey Small had a team-high six points (3+3) while rookie sensation Mark Matthews had four points (2+2) in the losing effort.
Richards finished with 41 saves on 52 shots and was relieved briefly by backup Matt Roik late in the second quarter while Rush goalie Aaron Bold made 36 stops on 48 shots.
The Rush were 9-0 this year when leading after three quarters until their overtime loss to the Calgary Roughnecks last weekend as they again let their lead slip away late.
“They outscored us 10-4 in the second half," Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan pointed out. "We gave up too much in transition, which is very uncharacteristic of this team."
The Stealth will now visit the Roughnecks at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, May 4 at 6 p.m. ET for the West Division Final to decide which team will go on to the 2013 NLL Championship Game. Watch the game live on CBS Sports Network.
Stealth beat writer for NLL.com Ben Tole contributed to this report.