The Bulldogs came out inspired off the opening puck drop and hemmed the Express in their zone for several shifts, but all it took was one chance for the Express to find the board as Josh Smith did a good job to steal the puck on the forecheck back of the Dogs net before throwing it out to the top of the crease for Jackson Cressey, who one-timed it through Tyger Howat to make it 1-0 at the 2:18 mark. Just seconds after the goal, the Express would have a glorious chance to build the lead as they raced in on a 3 on 0 rush on a delayed penalty, but they couldn't connect as a cross-ice one timer hit the post and stayed out. The Express would control the play for the next several minutes but the Dogs held on to keep it a one goal spread. The Express would then get in penalty trouble, taking back to back penalties before then taking another one after the whistle that saw the Bulldogs go to a 5 on 3 power play for 56 seconds. While the Dogs couldn't connect on the 5 on 3, they did score just seconds after the first penalty elapsed as Darian Henry put a low shot on net that was stopped by Dushenko, but he couldn't find the rebound before Hunter Stewart jammed it home from the top of the crease. Mitch Makin also picked up an assist on the play at 12:12 of the first period. The Dogs would get their feet under them after that and have several solid chances to take the lead, the best of which coming late in the period off a Craig Martin one-timer from the slot where Dushenko made a great glove save as it stayed 1-1 after one with the shots 11-9 in favour of the Dogs.
The second period was back and forth and fun to watch over the first couple of minutes. The Express would have a great chance at the end of a long shift where the Bulldogs contained them in their zone as Joey Santucci snuck out to centre where he was sent in alone on a breakaway after a great stretch pass. Tyger Howat would come up with a great glove save to keep it 1-1, but the Express would get it back shortly afterwards with their league leading 11th shorthanded goal as Ryan Rosenthal raced to a loose puck misplayed by a Bulldogs defender and put a wrist shot on goal that was stopped by Howat, but he couldn't find the rebound as Rosenthal drove the net and jammed the loose puck home. Assists went to Bo Pieper and John Saunders at 5:51 of the second. The Dogs would make good though and get it back on the power play less than a minute later as Craig Martin fought the puck over the line down the right wing before throwing a cross-ice pass onto the tape of a streaking Justin Georgeson who one-timed it home past the blocker of Dushenko to make it 2-2 at 6:43 of the second. The Bulldogs would take their first lead of the game in the final minute of play after winning several battles in their own end of the ice before Josh Atkins battled hard to find Hunter Stewart at the bottom of the right circle, where he went cross-crease onto the tape of Scott Clark to deflected it home to make it 3-2 at 19:09 of the second. The Bulldogs had a goal called back shortly afterwards as Quinton Wunder was robbed by a Dushenko glove save. Justin Georgeson would glove the puck down out of mid-air and drop it in the crease where it eventually ended up in the back of the net, but the Referee who was in position at the crease ruled no goal as it stayed 3-2 Dogs after two, with the Dogs out-shooting the Express 27-17.
The Express would quickly tie it up to open the third period as the Bulldogs failed to get the puck out, and gave it away up the middle where it was picked off by Adam Rockwood, who fed the left point where John Saunders blew a one-time slapper off a Bulldog stick and in to make it 3-3, with Corey Mackin also drawing an assist at 1:29 of the third. The Express would take the lead back two and a half minutes later on the power play on an unlucky/lucky bounce as a point shot was deflected and ended up in the slot right on the tape of Joey Santucci who fired it home past the glove of Howat. Canon Pieper and Zach Hodder drew the assists 3:50 into the third to make it 4-3 Express. The score would stay that way until the Bulldogs connected to tie it up on a pretty set up on a 5 on 3 power play as Justin Georgeson one-timed a Mak Barden pass in the deep slot top corner past the blocker of Dushenko. Kurtis Gosselin also drew an assist on the play at 9:37 of the third period to make it 4-4. Both teams would have their chances the remainder of regulation, but Howat and Duskenko stood tall to force the game into overtime. The Express would get the winner inside of three minutes into OT when Justin Georgeson was knocked down in the defensive zone before playing the puck on his knees to Darian Henry at centre ice. Henry would try to turn back, and lost his edges and the puck, which was picked up by Ryan Rosenthal who drove wide and to the net where he was initially stopped by Howat. The puck would end up in the net, along with Howat, and the goal stood as the Express won it 5-4 in OT at 2:47, unassisted. I'd like to see the goalie have a chance to keep the puck out, and I don't think he did in this instance.
Here's the video of the game winner - tough call for the Referee to make. You make the call, what's your opinion?
Final shots favoured the Bulldogs 41-31, with Tyger Howat taking the loss while Pierce Dushenko picked up 3rd star honours with the win. The Dogs went 3 for 7 on the power play, with the Express going 1 for 4 while also adding one while shorthanded.
The Dogs are now six points back of the Capitals for the final Island Division Playoff spot, they are next in action Friday night at home against Cowichan in another huge game.