MEDICINE HAT — A cornered cat is going to flash its claws.
Having already used up two lives, and 15 minutes away from staring a 3-0 series deficit in the face, the Medicine Hat Tigers came out scratching and clawing.
Bengals sniper Emerson Etem forced overtime late in the third period and then won it at 8:26 of sudden death as the Tigers climbed back into the series with a 4-3 victory in the Gas City.
“My linemates did a great job,” Etem said after redirecting defenceman Tomas Kundratek’s point shot through Calgary starter Martin Jones for the winner.
“We got behind their D. That is one of the things we wanted to do going into overtime.
“We stuck with it. It was a nice shot from the point and I was lucky to get a stick on it.”
The Hitmen lead the Eastern Conference semifinal 2-1 with Game 4 set for Wednesday night at The Arena (7 p.m., Shaw TV, Fan 960).
Calgary hosts Game 5 Friday (7 p.m. at the Dome).
Joel Broda scored a pair of goals and Giffen Nyren also lit the lamp in regulation time for the Hitmen.
Mark Isherwood and Linden Vey replied for the Tigers during a wild third period that saw the hosts overcome 2-0 and 3-2 deficits.
Emerson’s OT goal handed Jones his first-career loss (12-1) against the Tigers.
The Tigers hero said it felt good to finally solve Jones.
“Coming into this game, we knew we had to get shots on him,” the flashy rookie said after the Tigers improved to 4-0 on home ice in the playoffs.
“He has been outstanding for the past two games. The key was to get shots and get traffic and get gritty goals and that is what we did.”
Trailing 2-0 and down a pair of men early in the third period, the Tigers needed a huge penalty kill.
They got it thanks to a couple of solid stops by starter Tyler Bunz.
A few minutes later, Isherwood brought the frustrated Arena crowd to life when his shot bounced off a Hitmen defender and past Jones, snapping his shutout streak at 127:24.
The Hitmen ’tender made a huge breakaway save on Zdenek Okal moments later but the Hitmen got into penalty trouble and the Bengals made good on their own 5-on-3 advantage as Vey cashed in on a rebound to make it a 2-2 game.
Broda said the two powerplays were the turning points.
“Those are moments that can make or break games for you,” Broda said. “If we go up 3-0 there, I think it’s real tough for them to come back. It would have been a real buzz-kill.
“But that’s something we have to work on. When we have chances, we have to bury the hatchet and deliver that killer blow.”
With the teams playing four aside, Broda notched his second of the game with 5:56 to play.
But the Tigers answered just 46 seconds later as Etem sent the crowd into a frenzy and forced extra time.
The Tigers outshot the visitors 33-31, including 6-4 in overtime.
Nyren, who enjoyed his best all-around game of the series, started the scoring on a first period powerplay. He took a cross-ice feed from Brandon Kozun and buried his third of the post-season past Bunz.
The smooth-skating d-man said there is no time to mull over the loss, which snapped a five-game winning streak.
“We’ve already forgotten about it,” Nyren said. “There’s no time to dwell on the past because you can’t change it.
“We’re going to get a bite to eat, get some sleep and get ready to go tomorrow night.”
There was only one penalty called in the middle frame and, once again, the Hitmen jumped on the opportunity.
Zak Stebner redirected fellow blueliner Matt MacKenzie’s point shot on net and Broda pounded the rebound home for his fifth of the playoffs.
The shots were even at 17 apiece after 40 minutes.