You’re familiar with the term quick-strike offence?
Well, the Abbotsford Heat took that concept to a surreal new level on Thursday evening.
The Heat scored twice in a span of three seconds – shorthanded, no less – in the third period against the Toronto Marlies to break a scoreless tie and spark a 3-0 victory at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
The first goal was a thing of beauty, as defenceman Steve McCarthy joined the rush and took a lead pass from Carter Bancks, then slipped a backhander between the legs of Marlies goalie Ben Scrivens on the breakaway.
The second was an absolute nightmare for Scrivens.
Off the ensuing centre-ice faceoff, Heat centre Ben Street chopped the puck ahead. It caught the Marlies keeper by surprise, and remarkably, found its way into the cage.
It felt like nothing you’d had ever seen before, and indeed, that was precisely the case.
The McCarthy and Street tallies set a new AHL record for the fastest two goals by the same team. The previous mark was five seconds, and had been accomplished several times – most recently, by the Worcester IceCats against the Manchester Monarchs on March 30, 2003.
The NHL record for the fastest two goals by the same team was set by the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 21, 2004 against the Chicago Blackhawks, when Jim Dowd and Richard Park scored three seconds apart.
That matches the Heat’s feat, but Park’s goal was an empty-netter. Abbotsford’s goals were both on a goalie, and shorthanded – factors which surely make the sequence unique in the history of the pro game.
“Who’s ever seen that before?” marvelled Heat goalie Barry Brust, who posted a 22-save shutout. “That was pretty weird. I can definitely sympathize with him (Scrivens). I’m just glad it wasn’t me.”
Street said that after McCarthy’s goal, he got a tip from Heat assistant coach Cail MacLean, who co-ordinates the penalty kill, that the Marlies were likely to try pushing the puck forward on the ensuing face-off.
“I figured there was no use trying to win it back,” he explained. “So I just tried to go forward myself, and I got pretty good wood on it and got it high enough so that he (Scrivens) didn’t pick up on it. I hit the right club, I guess, and in it went.”
Street tried to make it three quick goals in a row, batting the puck on net once again off the next faceoff, but Scrivens made the save.
The Coquitlam native said it was “pretty cool” to be part of a record-setting sequence.
“If someone really wants to look up what that (record) is, my name will be there,” he said.
“I’ll lie and say it went bar and in.”
Sven Baertschi rounded out the Heat scoring with an empty-netter with 1:29 remaining.
Any other game, McCarthy’s highlight-reel effort would have been the goal of the night, but it was overshadowed by Street’s fluke.
“It was the biggest play of the game,” Heat head coach Troy Ward acknowledged.
“There are moments in games where you’ve got to make sure you step up as a player and make plays. He made a big play at the right time.”
As remarkable as the scoring spurt was, it wasn’t all smiles and chuckles for the Heat afterward.
Abbotsford boasts the AHL’s best penalty kill (97.3 per cent efficiency), but they seem determined to test it at every opportunity. The Marlies had a 9-3 edge in power plays, and the Heat’s frequent infractions included two – two! – penalties to Joe Piskula and Chris Breen for closing their hand on the puck.
The penalty disparity has become a troubling pattern for Abbotsford, who gave their opponents a 15-8 edge in power plays during a three-game road trip last weekend.
They’ve been bailed out by their penalty killers and goaltenders, though, and incredibly, have outscored opposing teams 3-1 while shorthanded this season. But that’s hardly a sustainable situation.
“It’s disappointing as a coach,” Ward said.
“It’s a brain function at a pivotal time and situation, and you’ve got to make good decisions. Closing your hand on the puck? Those are penalties we should never take.
“It’s something we’re very aware of. It’s something we addressed this week when we got back after last weekend, but it’s still continuing. It’s something where we’re skating by right now because our penalty kill’s been so good. That’s just not a recipe for long-term success.”
The Heat (5-1-2) and Marlies (3-3-1) renew hostilities on Friday (7 p.m., AESC).
• Heat players voted Quintin Laing captain on Thursday afternoon, but he was a scratch against the Marlies just hours later – a product of the Heat’s surplus of veterans. They have six such players, and can only dress five.