Jason King scored with 82 seconds left in regulation as the St. John's IceCaps beat the Syracuse Crunch 3-2 in American Hockey League playoff action Friday in the New York city.
King skated down the left wing, took a pass from Ben Maxwell and fired a wrist shot that snuck past the glove hand of Crunch goalie Iiro Tarkki.
"Maxy made a great pass cross ice to me, and Gags (Aaron Gagnon) was driving to the net," King said. "In the playoffs, you basically throw the pucks anywhere because you never know what could happen.
"I got a pretty good shot off. He got a piece of it but it went in. We didn't get as many shots as we're used to, first period for sure. They were getting shots on us but we weren't getting our forecheck going the way we can. But we played a lot stronger in the third period."
With Tarkki on the bench, Syracuse pressed late but failed to get the equalizer.
Syracuse took a 2-1 lead 10:35 into the third period on a goal from Mark Bell, but Aaron Gagnon tied the game just under two minutes later to set up King's winner.
Derek Meech had a goal and an assist for the IceCaps. The affiliate of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets leads the best-of-five Eastern Conference quarter-final 1-0. Game 2 is Saturday in Syracuse.
Kyle Palmieri had the other goal for the Crunch.
Ed Pasquale made 35 saves for St. John's.
Tarkki stopped 26 shots for Syracuse.
The Crunch outshot the IceCaps 15-8 in the first period but neither team was able to score.
"It was a tight-checking game, a physical game form our opposition," IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge said. "Every inch of the ice you have to fight for out there.
'That mindset you need to win'
"Overall I thought Syracuse looked like a team that's been playing for the last month with intensity — playoff-like hockey. Our game has not had as much intensity to it. It took us to the third period to get us into that mindset you need to win playoff hockey."
St. John's opened the scoring three minutes into the second period as a Brock Trotter feed from behind the net found Meech at the point. His shot found its way through traffic behind Tarkki.
Palmieri evened the score halfway through the second period with a power-play goal. With Kevin Clark serving two minutes for tripping, Palmieri one-timed the puck past St. John's goalie Eddie Pasquale at the 10:22 mark of the period.
Bell gave the Crunch at 2-1 lead after burying the puck past Pasquale from the left side off of a pass from Dan Sexton with 8:47 remaining in the third period.
The IceCaps responded less than two minutes later when Gagnon slipped the puck past Tarkki off of a pass from Maxwell and Travis Ramsey to tie the game at 2-2.