In their game against the Rock Springs Grizzlies on Saturday night, the Idaho Falls Spud Kings experienced the old hockey saying that “2-0 is the most dangerous lead in hockey.”

The Spud Kings established their 2-0 lead in the first period and maintained it throughout the majority of the second period. With just over two minutes left in the second period, former Spud King Kristof Molnar tallied his first goal of the season, drawing his team within one.

It took the Grizzlies 70 seconds to capitalize on another scoring opportunity, evening the score before the break.

The score remained tied through the third period and the subsequent overtime, creating one of the most nerve-racking situations in hockey: a shootout.

It took six rounds of the shootout to decide the game, but Charlie Ashton put the ultimate dagger in the Spud Kings with a slow deke and a five-hole shot.

Powerplay struggles

The Spud Kings’ powerplay operated at 25% during the game, which is much better than their season average of 14%. They missed a golden opportunity, however, to run away with the game in the second period as Grizzlies forward Owen Meyer took a five-minute major for head contact.

A major penalty grants the non-offending team five consecutive minutes of powerplay time, regardless of whether or not they score. That’s significantly different from a two-minute minor penalty which ends if the non-offending team scores.

The Spud Kings already had a 2-0 lead at that point, so scoring on the powerplay didn’t seem nearly as crucial at the time — they had already won the game, in their minds.

The save

Easton Edwards had a chance to increase the Spud Kings’ lead to three early in the second period as he intercepted a stretch pass made by Grizzlies goaltender Nikolas Charles, who was in the corner at the time. Before Edwards could pull the trigger on the empty net, Charles rushed across the zone, sliding into the splits as he snared the puck in his glove.

Just like the five-minute major, scoring on that opportunity didn’t seem all too important to the Spud Kings, who had a 2-0 lead at the time.

Playoff implications

As the Spud Kings make a push for the playoffs, every point counts. A shootout loss gives them a point, but a win would have given them two.

They now sit two points ahead of the Pueblo Bulls with the same amount of games played, but the Bulls’ final two games are against the last-place Grizzlies — a much easier opponent than the third-place Provo Predators, whom the Spud Kings face twice next week.

If the Spud Kings manage three points in the next two games, they’ll clinch a playoff spot no matter how the Bulls do. Nevertheless, the Spud Kings will be cheering for the team that just beat them in hopes of bringing playoff hockey back to Mountain America Center.

End of the plague

As the Spud Kings prepare for their dates with the Predators, they’re happy to have several players back from injury. Owen Pitters, who missed two games after suffering an injury while stretching in warmups on March 2, played both games this weekend. He scored the Spud Kings’ second goal on Saturday.

Lucas Karlsson made his return to the lineup on Saturday. He was injured in the same game as Pitters after taking an awkward hit. According to head coach John Becanic after that game, Karlsson was suspected to have suffered a concussion and a broken finger.

The Spud Kings also gained additional depth with the signing of forward Aidan Radic. Radic spent the majority of the season in the Chicago Reapers U18 AAA program.