LOWELL -- On one of those rare nights in the rough-and-tumble world of pro hockey where a team could actually play pure hockey, the Lowell Lock Monsters almost forgot how.
In an AHL game in which just eight minor penalties were whistled -- three in the first 50 minutes -- the Lock Monsters had to settle for a 2-2 overtime deadlock with the Springfield Falcons in front of a turnout of 2,209 last night at the Tsongas Arena.
The tie extended Lowell's unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1).
"This is my second year as a pro," said former University of Michigan star Warren Luhning, who scored the first Lowell goal and just missed netting a game-winner near the end of regulation. "And it seems every game is dominated by special teams.
"It was nice to play five-on-five."
But the Lock Monsters all too often played nervously, as if they expected to be boarded, slashed, high-sticked, or mugged at any moment, and they needed a sharp 36-save effort from goalie Marcel Cousineau to escape with a point.
"I'm still looking for the perfect game," said coach Frank Anzalone. "We're playing about 38 good minutes right now, but it's coming around.
"We can be rock solid for 11 minutes and then be Swiss cheese for the next six minutes," he added. "AHL hockey is all about momentum swings. It's fun, entertaining, and scary all at the same time."
The Falcons led 1-0 just 83 seconds into the game after Olli Jokinen put a rebound behind Cousineau, and they could have quickly been ahead by three goals were it not for his superb goaltending.
"Cousineau is the major reason we've had such a good homestand," said Anzalone. "He has given us a chance to win every game, and that's all you can ask of your goaltender."
The Lock Monsters came back with a pair of second-period goals by Luhning at 3:32 and Sean Haggerty at 18:40 to take a 2-1 edge. But the third period was characterized by a number of missed opportunities.
After having been held to six shots in the second period, Springfield outshot Lowell 8-0 in the opening minutes of the third period and tied the game at 3:47 when Cousineau couldn't find a loose puck at his feet. Chris Schmidt jammed it into the cage.
The Lock Monsters went on a power play two minutes later, and defenseman Mike Gaul was twice perfectly set up for goals. But he tipped a feed by former UMass Lowell star Craig Charron wide to the near side, then fanned on another pass through the crease with Springfield goalie Robert Esche helpless both times.
Gaul set up Luhning with a pass through the crease from the opposite direction on another power play with three minutes left in regulation, but Esche was able to block the shot.
"I got good wood on it," said Luhning, "but the goalie got his pad on it. Maybe I should have stopped before shooting."
Each team had a power play in overtime but failed to cash in.
Springfield rallies to tie Lowell
By John McLaughlin
LOWELL -- The Lock Monsters may have put in some overtime, but they still haven't turned in a full night's work.
''We played really good for about 38 minutes,'' said Lowell coach Frank Anzalone, whose club lost a one-goal lead in the third period and had to settle for a 2-2 tie against Springfield last night.
''That's better than the 22 minutes we put in against New Haven, but it's still not good enough. We're still fighting to put together that total game.''
The Lock Monsters missed the early part this one, as Springfield punched in a goal just 1:23 into the game to take the quick lead.
Springfield continued its initial onslaught on Lowell goalie Marcel Cousineau, who had to turn aside four more shots, including a point-blank effort by Falcon center Chris Schmidt, to keep his team in a game that was less than three minutes old.
Lock Monster center Craig Charron nearly evened the score seven minutes in, drilling the puck off the post to the left of Springfield goalie Robert Esche.
The second period proved much better for Lowell, which pulled even thanks to some determined work from left wing Sean Haggerty.
With his linemates making a change, Haggerty chased the puck deep in the Falcon zone and wreaked havoc, finally forcing a turnover for Lock Monster defenseman John Namestnikov.
Namestnikov found winger Warren Luhning alone in front of Esche, and Luhning banged home the equalizer 3:32 into the second stanza.
The rest of the period was fairly uneventful, one penalty and no fights, until the waning moments.
Haggerty gave the Lock Monsters their first lead of the game just 1:20 before the break, finishing off a feed from fellow winger Mike Kennedy.
Haggerty, named the number one star for the second straight game, beat Esche between the pads to make it a 2-1 Lock Monster lead heading into the final frame.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Springfield fired the first seven shots of the third period, connecting on its seventh.
Falcon center Chris Schmidt had two straight cracks camped right in front of Cousineau, and made the second one count with 16:13 to play in the game.
The Lock Monsters had the only other true scoring chances late in the game on a power play, one each by Haggerty and Luhning, but Esche was equal to the task.
The overtime, during which each team had a power play, produced no real scoring threats.