The 67's big line delivered a huge wake-up call.
Corey Cowick set the tone with his shoulder and his stick in Ottawa's series-tying 6-2 win over the Niagara IceDogs yesterday in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final, while captain Logan Couture had a first-star effort with four assists.
Cowick knocked down IceDogs star defenceman Alex Pietrangelo on the game's first shift and scored the first of his two goals a few minutes later, firing up his team and the crowd of 4,221 at the Civic Centre.
"That's why Killer (coach and GM Brian Kilrea) puts us out there so much as he does, myself, Niges (Anthony Nigro) and Coush (Couture)," said Cowick, who added a back-breaking, short-handed goal in the second to help the 67's snap a nine-game playoff skid dating to 2007.
"We're looked at to get the first goal, get that first hit."
Nigro added his first two goals of the post-season to help the 67's get momentum. They need it with the next three games at cosy Jack Gatecliff Arena in St. Catharines.
"We just have to go down there and play our game," added Cowick, a Gloucester native. "It's a small rink, but it doesn't have to be pretty. We'll have the fan bus there ... We just have to finish checks, shoot from everywhere."
The 67's will leave at 12:30 p.m. today and spend the entire week in St. Catharines, where Game 3 goes tomorrow (7:30 p.m., Rogers 22).
The 67's are 0-4 there since the IceDogs relocated before last season, but the playoffs are a new game.
"We just have to hopefully keep (the players) amused and keep them sharp the entire time we're down there, so they're ready when they get to the rink," said Kilrea, who is retiring as coach after this playoff run.
The Nigro-Couture-Cowick line tallied 6-of-9 Ottawa goals on the weekend, a concern for a team that prides itself on secondary scoring.
Tyler Toffoli's first career playoff tally, along with Cody Lindsay's third-period goal yesterday, means all three members of the second line have scored in these playoffs. Thomas Kiriakou had a goal in the 5-3, Game 1 loss Friday.
"(The first line) has been moving the puck well," said Kilrea. "We have to have everyone contributing, though. The other lines take the pressure off the first line. We hope to get more out of the other lines as the series goes along."
The 67's, however, are getting grit from their third and fourth lines.
Thomas Nesbitt scored a takedown on Dylan McEachern (who had Niagara's first goal to open the scoring) during a second-period fight about a minute after Ottawa had opened a two-goal lead. Cowick's shorty came 51 seconds later. Niagara never got any closer.
Nigro scored twice in the second to make it 5-1 before a Pietrangelo power-play tally.
"Their coach (Mario Circhillo) coached me in summer hockey and I played with a lot of their guys, so it felt pretty good to get a couple," said Nigro.
Kilrea stuck with goaltender Chris Perugini, and it paid off as the 17-year-old stopped 41 shots in the bounce-back win.
"We thought about (starting Adam Courchaine)," Kilrea said. "(But) we didn't feel it was one person on Friday. Why switch goalies when it was numerous players?"