PLYMOUTH - Victor Crus Rydberg's power play goal at 3:07 of overtime gave the Plymouth Whalers a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Kitchener Rangers in an Ontario Hockey League game played Saturday night before 2,929 at Compuware Arena.GAME SUMMARY
Plymouth improves to 21-28-0-6, good for 48 points and a five-point lead on Kitchener for the eighth and final playoff spot in the OHL's Western Conference race. The Whalers have 13 games remaining.
The Rangers are now 20-32-2-1, with 43 points and ninth place in the Western Conference. Kitchener has 13 games remaining.
Crus Rydberg's goal is his eighth of the season.
Plymouth's power play in the overtime was set up by Darby Llewellyn's interference penalty at 1:15 of the extra session, as Matia Marcantuoni skated hard into the Plymouth zone and Llewellyn ran a pick on a Whaler defender.Give Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci some credit for the game-winning goal, too. Given a four-on-three power play in overtime, Vellucci called at time-out at 2:42 of OT to set up strategy.
The key to the play was winning the faceoff. Kitchener's Curtis Meighan was excellent all night on faceoffs, but did not win this one, and Francesco Vilardi started the play, which ended up at the top of the left circle to Crus Rydberg, who scored with a hard shot from the high slot past Rangers goaltender Jordan DeKort.
The Whalers pressured Kitchener all night, outshooting the Rangers, 42-26. DeKort - who pitched a 5-0 shutout against Mississauga on Friday - did his part to keep the game close.
After a scoreless first period, Kitchener took a 1-0 lead at 6:52 of the second period on Dmitrii Sergeev's first OHL goal. Marcantuoni set the play up with a pass from beyond the goal line to Sergeev, who scored from the high slot with traffic in front of Nedeljkovic.
Plymouth's Carter Sandlak rang a shot off the cross bar later in the period and the Rangers led, 1-0, after forty minutes. The Whalers outshot Kitchener, 26-18, through forty minutes.
Vellucci was instrumental again in setting the tying goal in motion. He sent out a different line combination in Vince Scognamiglio, Ryan Hartman and Danny Vanderwiel and the line responded, winning battles for the puck deep in the Kitchener zone. The puck was centered to Curcuruto, who scored his sixth of the year with a low shot from the slot with traffic around DeKort at 11:24.
Kitchener's Jimmy Soper rang a shot off the Plymouth cross-bar later in the period, but the game moved to overtime tied at 1-1.
Llewellyn's penalty set the stage for Vellucci's time-out and Crus Rydberg's game-winner.
Crus Rydberg scored on a similar shot to win in overtime on Nov. 22 in Plymouth's 4-3 win in Saginaw.
Both goaltenders played well and were named stars in the game. Plymouth's Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 25-of-26 shots and was named second star in the game. DeKort stopped 40-of-42 shots as the game's third star.
A playoff game in February lived up to the billing.
Plymouth plays in Guelph in its next game on Monday afternoon (1:50 pm, 88.1FM WSDP), in Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday (7 pm, 88.1FM WSDP) and in Sarnia on Friday (6:50 pm, 88.1FM WSDP) before returning home next Saturday to host London at 7:05 pm at Compuware Arena.