Peter Quenneville hit pay-dirt on the power play to give the Rapid City Rush a 3-1 lead midway through the second period, but the Tulsa Oilers, led by Danny Moynihan and Adam Pleskach scored five unanswered goals to hand the Rush a 6-3 loss on Friday night. The loss puts the Rush out of the playoff bracket for the first time since January 15th with 16 games remaining. Tulsa now sits in fourth in the Mountain Division, despite the Rush holding three games-in-hand.
Both teams traded blows on special teams in the opening 20 minutes of play. Stephane Legault got the Rush on the board first at 5:41 of the opening period for his first shorthanded goal of the season. Tyler Coulter broke up a pass in the neutral zone and came in the Oilers third on a breakaway, denied by Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams. Legault came in unmarked and slammed the rebound home to give the Rush a 1-0 lead (Coulter had the lone assist). However, on the next Oilers power play, Danny Moynihan executed a high-skill maneuver near the Rush net with seconds remaining on the advantage to tie the game. With 8:30 gone by in the first, the puck caromed to Moynihan on a rebound, and he proceeded to kick it skate-to-stick and flip it by Rush net-minder Tyler Parks to square the contest at 1-1 (Ryan Tesink and Hunter Drew assisted).
The Rush answered with a pair at the start of the second period, but were once again countered at the end of the frame with two more from Tulsa. Dane Birks re-established the Rush lead with a blue line shot that whizzed by Williams and through traffic, putting the Rush back on top at 2-1 with 2:17 played in the second (Eric Israel and Tanner Karty assisted). Over the midway point of the period, Rush Captain Peter Quenneville extended his team’s lead with a tally on the last Rush power play of the game. With 7:20 left in the second, Tyler Coulter threaded a pass from behind the net through a sea of traffic to Quenneville on the backdoor, with the latter rifling a shot past Williams glove to give the Rush a 3-1 lead (Coulter and Keeghan Howdeshell assisted). That would be all the offense the Rush would muster, as Oilers Captain Adam Pleskach countered with a power play goal of his own to start a five-goal Oilers rally. His strike came with 2:50 left in the second with a shot past a screened Parks, firing by his glove to bring the Oilers in striking distance, trailing 3-2 (Miles Liberati and Brent Gates Jr. assisted). Exactly 99 seconds later, Charlie Sampair deflected a Hunter Drew shot from the half wall in front of the net past Parks, squaring the game at 3-3 entering the final period (Drew and Danny Moynihan assisted).
Both teams traded quality opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the third, but the Oilers eventually broke the deadlock and finished with the victory. Adam Pleskach provided the eventual game-winner with 8:20 left in the game after Ryan Tesink beat out an icing call into the Rush zone. Tesink fired a shot that was kicked by Parks to Pleskach, who buried his shot to give Tulsa a 4-3 lead (Tesink had the lone assist). Miles Liberati added insurance with 3:27 left in the game with a blue line shot through traffic that beat Parks over his shoulder, expanding Tulsa’s lead to 5-3 (Pleskach and Jack Nevins assisted). Moynihan ended with Tulsa’s fifth unanswered goal into the empty net with 51 seconds remaining, giving the Oilers a 6-3 win.
Tyler Parks, making his first start since returning from his third AHL call-up of the season, stopped 33 of 38 shots in the defeat (12-8-3-0).
The Rush continue their eight-game home stand with a rematch against the Tulsa Oilers in the middle of their “three-in-three” series this weekend. Puck drop for tomorrow, February 29th, is slated for 7:05 p.m. MDT at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena. Tomorrow is “DC Comics Night” brought to you by the Denny Menholt Auto Group, featuring the Rush wearing specialty Batman-themed jerseys, while the Oilers will sport Joker-themed jerseys.