Clutch Koper: 'Blades Strike in Final Minute to Earn 5-4 Win
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Levko Koper scored with just 23 seconds left in the third period to lift the Florida Everblades to a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Jacksonville Icemen on Sunday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Arena.
In their fourth game in five days, the Everblades (38-13-3-2, 81 pts.) answered two separate deficits in the second period and scored twice in the third to knock off Jacksonville (20-26-5-1, 46 pts.) for the sixth straight meeting.
Florida opened the scoring for the fourth time in the season series with Jacksonville on a power-play strike by Zach Magwood. Standing in the left circle, Magwood collected a feed from Ben Masella and hammered it past Jacksonville goaltender Adam Carlson at the 11:26 mark of the first period.
Craig Martin played the key role in Jacksonville's first goal of the game to tie the score. He worked behind the net and located Wacey Rabbit in the left circle, and Rabbit ripped a one-time blast past Florida goaltender Ken Appleby with 3:07 left in the first.
The Icemen then took the lead on a power-play goal early in the second period. Luke Shiplo rifled the initial shot from the deep slot that Appleby managed to get a pad on for the initial save. But John Albert was standing at the top of the crease and whacked in the rebound just 2:11 into period two.
Florida evened up the score for the first time in the second period on Michael Neville's fifth goal of the year. Off an in-zone faceoff win, Hunter Garlent blasted a pass from Michael Huntebrinker off the pads of Carlson, and Neville found the rebound at the side of the net and shoveled it in at 5:33 of the second.
Adam Dauda returned the lead to Jacksonville only 54 seconds after Neville's goal, as he picked up a rebound in the right circle and pushed it past a sliding Appleby.
Florida again answered the call just past the halfway point of the middle period to knot the game at three. Neville chipped the puck off the half-wall in his own zone to send Blake Winiecki on a two-on-one rush with Garlent. Winiecki then zipped a wrist shot through Carlson's five-hole.
The two teams traded goals in a two-minute window less than halfway through the third to continue the deadlock. Garlent beat Carlson with a shot from the right-wing circle at 6:06 of the final stanza of regulation, but Albert netted his second of the game on a turnaround try from the slot just 96 seconds later to make it 4-4.
With the game still tied in the last half-minute, Joe Pendenza managed to kick the puck into the low slot for Koper, and he lifted it over Carlson to give the 'Blades the win.
Koper's game-winning goal was the second time this season that Florida has scored in the last five minutes of regulation to win a game. It was the first time in the last two seasons that Florida has scored in the last minute of regulation to earn a win.
Florida had multi-point games from Garlent (1g, 1a), Neville (1g, 1a), Winiecki (1g, 1a) and Masella (2a).
Appleby earned his third win of the week and improved to 4-0-0-1 against his former team this season with a 19-save effort.
Florida converted on its lone power play of the game in the first period.
After dropping the first two meetings against Jacksonville this season, Florida has earned wins in six straight games in the series dating back to Dec. 11.
Florida has to endure another set of three games in three days next weekend, starting with a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final on Friday night against Newfoundland.
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