ELMIRA, N.Y. - Chaz Johnson has made a habit of having clutch games for the Wheeling Nailers when he returns to Elmira to face his former team. Saturday night, the veteran forward broke a 1-1 tie with 10:58 remaining in the third period, leading the Nailers to a 3-1 victory as they clinched the 2013-14 season series with their eighth victory against Elmira.
Beating the Jackals coupled with Evansville's 3-2 shootout loss at South Carolina, allowed the Nailers to jump into the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff position.
Wheeling opened the scoring at the 12:11 mark of the first period. Carter Rowney and company blocked Elmira's attempt to enter the offensive zone, leading to a transition rush in the opposite direction. Rowney dished a pass through neutral ice to Cody Sylvester, who skated in on the left side of the offensive zone. Sylvester let a wrist shot go, which squeezed through Neil Conway for his team-leading 13th of the campaign.
The score remained 1-0 Nailers until the start of the third period as the visitors killed off a two-man disadvantage in the middle frame. The Jackals netted the tying goal on a power play, starting with a wrist shot from high in the zone by Kyle Bushee. Danny Hobbs got a piece of the puck and Jordan Pietrus potted the rebound for the equalizer.
However, Wheeling responded with a power-play goal, as Zack Torquato sent a shot through from the left point. Johnson was parked at the side of the net, ready for the redirect, as he tallied his ninth of the year, including his fifth in Elmira.
With less than a minute to go, Mike Condon kept the Nailers in the lead as he slid across to deny a one-timer by Pietrus in the left circle. That allowed Denver Manderson to add an insurance goal, as he tossed in an empty-netter for a 3-1 Wheeling triumph.
Condon earned a victory, stopping 23 of the 24 shots he faced. Conway suffered his first regulation loss for the Jackals, despite a 31-save effort on 33 shots.
Wheeling1 0 2 - 3
Elmira0 0 1 - 1
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Sylvester 13 (Rowney), 12:11. Penalties-Johnson Whl (fighting - major), 1:38; Young Elm (fighting - major), 1:38; Smith Whl (tripping), 2:16; Pokulok Elm (hooking), 7:56.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-served by Demkov Elm (bench - too many men), 4:45; Ratchuk Whl (tripping), 11:41; Stevenson Whl (interference), 12:07; Walters Elm (hooking), 15:10; Alber Elm (tripping), 20:00.
3rd Period-2, Elmira, Pietrus 8 (Hobbs, Bushee), 3:09 (PP). 3, Wheeling, Johnson 9 (Torquato, Gill), 9:02 (PP). 4, Wheeling, Manderson 8 (Fernandez), 19:18 (EN). Penalties-Ratchuk Whl (interference), 2:04; Culek Elm (slashing ), 7:25.
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 10-9-15-34. Elmira 6-9-9-24.
Power-Play Opportunities-Wheeling 1-5; Elmira 1-4.
Goalies-Wheeling, Condon 17-11-0-4 (24 shots-23 saves). Elmira, Conway 6-1-0-1 (33 shots-31 saves).
Referee-Andy Thackaberry (22); Linesmen-Joe DeMizio (59), Brian Oliver (36).