The Saginaw Spirit (3-0) set a franchise record with three shorthanded goals to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the (best-of-seven) opening round of the 2019 Ontario Hockey League western conference playoffs with a 6-1 victory over the Sarnia Sting (0-3) at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, ON tonight.
With the Spirit protecting a 2-1 lead late in the middle frame, Saginaw defenseman Justin Murray was whistled for a holding penalty, setting up the first of three straight shorthanded goals when Spirit captain Damien Giroux (a fifth round pick of the Minnesota Wild in the 2018 NHL draft) put on a penalty kill clinic, battling for possession of the puck and scoring a shorthanded wrap-around goal, his third of the playoffs, to extend the Saginaw lead to 3-1 at 14:34 of the second period.
Saginaw followed with another shorthanded goal early in the third frame, this from Murray (1) with an assist coming from Detroit Red Wings prospect Brady Gilmour for a 4-1 Spirit lead at 5:11 of the third period, before Camaryn Baber, with another great individual effort, battled three Sting players for possession of the puck behind the Sarnia net then finding Spirit defenseman Reagan O'Grady (1) who scored a third straight shorthanded goal for a 5-1 Saginaw lead at 12:15 of the third period.
Spirit forward Jake Goldowski (1) would wrap up the Saginaw scoring with a power play goal, his first of the playoffs from Gilmour and Hayden Davis for a 6-1 lead at 17:27 of the third period.
The Spirit had jumped out to an early lead in the opening frame when Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett (4) scored his fourth of the post-season with assists coming from Detroit Red Wings prospect Reilly Webb and Murray for a 1-0 lead at 2:54 of the opening period, while Baber (1) would take advantage of a turnover inside the Sarnia zone to score his first goal of the playoffs, unassisted, for a 2-0 Spirit lead at 10:56 of the first period, before the Sting answered just 25-seconds later when Sarnia forward Justin McCombs scored his first of the post-season at the 11:21 mark, cutting the Saginaw lead to 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
Saginaw goal tender Ivan Prosvetov (a fourth round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL draft) won his third straight playoff game, stopping 34 of the 35 shots he would face in net for the Spirit.
The Spirit, who have not won a playoff series since a 4-games-to-2 series win over these same Sarnia Sting during the first round of the 2012 OHL western conference playoffs, will now have an opportunity to sweep the Sting on the road after a game-4 win in a couple days, where face off is set for 7:05 pm right back here at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena on Thursday night.