NLL legend John Tavares scored five goals including the game-winner in overtime to help the Buffalo Bandits (2-1) spoil the Philadelphia Wings (1-2) home opener with a 12-11 road win at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon.
"Jamie Rooney and Ryan Benesch set some great picks for me to get open," Tavares said. "They deserve a lot of the credit as well. Great team win."
Buffalo earned a victory in their first road game of the season and redeemed themselves after a season-opening loss to Philadelphia at home. After trailing 3-2 after the first quarter, the Bandits used a five-goal run to end the first half with an 8-4 lead as Dhane Smith posted seven points in the first 30 minutes.
“This year we have seemed to drop off a bit in the second quarter,” said Wings head coach Blane Harrison. “In order to win, we can’t continue to play from behind going into the second half.”
The teams traded goals in the third quarter as Philly cut the lead to 10-7 entering the final frame. The Wings pulled within 10-9 with two quick goals in a 28-second span, but Bandits captain Tavares scored 11 seconds later to stop a four-goal Wings run.
Philadelphia responded with two goals, the second by Ryan Ward with four minutes remaining for his fourth of the night, to tie the game at 11-11.
“Our late-game comeback was due to returning to the basics,” explained Harrison. “We need to keep things simple and run our plays. Whenever we see success, it only makes sense to continue to do what led to that success.”
The teams traded chances at the end of regulation and overtime before Tavares ended it 55 seconds into the extra frame.
Smith posted a career-high nine points (3+6) while Tavares, the NLL's all-time leading scorer at 45-years-young, recorded his first five-goal game since Feb. 12, 2011 in a 16-7 win at Philadelphia. Ryan Benesch added five points (1+5) in the win as goaltender Anthony Cosmo made 43 saves on 54 shots.
Ward finished the day with a game-high four goals for the Wings. Former Bandits forward Tracey Kelusky had five points (2+3), Kevin Crowley (1+3), Jordan Hall (0+4) and Kyle Buchanan (2+2) each posted four points while captain Brodie Merrill had 13 loose balls.
Tavares is no stranger to scoring big goals as he scored the game-winner in overtime of the 1992 Championship against the Wings to give the Bandits their first title in their inaugural season. The Buffalo vs. Philadelphia rivalry is the oldest in the league at 23 years and running. The game marked the 50th all-time meeting between the clubs.
The Wings will play a back-to-back home-and-home with the Minnesota Swarm next weekend in Week 4, starting at Philly on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 12 p.m. ET before heading to Minnesota for their home opener at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Tavares finished with seven points (5+2) to extend his active pointstreak with at least one point recorded in 178-straight games dating back to Jan. 25, 2002.
Meanwhile, the Bandits will head to Colorado to take on the Mammoth at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET as the team looks to build off the momentum of two-straight victories sparked at halftime of their home win against the Toronto Rock this past Friday.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) John Tavares
2) Dhane Smith
3) Ryan Ward