GREENVILLE, S.C. - Coach Clark Donatelli was not the least bit surprised.
Already down 2-0 in their Best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal with Greenville, the Wheeling Nailers allowed the game-tying goal with 12 seconds remaining Tuesday night, setting up what was sure to be a distraught locker room prior to overtime.
''Between periods you would think it's going to be a morgue, but the guys were fired up,'' Donatelli said.
The Nailers came out at full gallop in overtime, culminating in Mike Ratchuk's fifth overtime game-winning goal of the season at 8:18, giving Wheeling new life in a series that stands at 2-1 in favor of the Road Warriors heading into Thursday night's Game 4 at Bons Secours Wellness Arena. Ratchuk slid a twirling shot from the point through traffic and Greenville goaltender Jason Missiaen.
''I couldn't be happier because he is a well-liked guy and he's a big-time leader,'' Donatelli said. ''If you would have taken a straw poll of the guys of who they would pick to get the winner, it would have been him.''
The Nailers jumped to an early 1-0 as Dustin Stevenson stepped in with a shot from the left-wing wall that was gloved away by Missiaen, but the rebound popped out to the front of the crease where Tom Kuhnhackl pounded home his team-leading fifth of the playoffs. Cody Sylvester, making his first appearance in the playoffs after leading Wheeling with 24 goals during the regular season, added the second assist.
Greenville 3, Wheeling 0
- Saturday: Greenville 7, Wheeling 3
- Sunday: Greenville 4, Wheeling 3, OT
- Tuesday: Wheeling 3, Greenville 2, OT
- Thursday: Wheeling at Greenville, 7 p.m.
x - Friday: Wheeling at Greenville, 7 p.m.
x - Monday, May 12: Greenville at Wheeling, 7 p.m.
x - Wednesday, May 14: Greenville at Wheeling, 7 p.m.
Early in the second period Wheeling extended its lead with a power-play goal. Zack Torquato gloved down a clearing attempt at the left point, before sliding a pass to Sahir Gill in the slot.
Gill made one more pass, connecting with Sylvester in the right circle and teed up a slap shot, which flew into the right side of the cage.
''Cody Sylvester with a big-time performance. What a gut-check game for him,'' Donatelli said. ''It's one thing not to be in game shape, but to do that and come in during the middle of a series is unbelievable.
''He showed a lot of character.''
With 4:47 to go in second Greenville got on the scoreboard, courtesy of a fortunate bounce.
Josh Nicholls tapped the puck to the right of the crease, where it deflected in on a non-kicking motion off of Andrew Yogan's skate.
With just 12.2 seconds left in the third period, the Road Warriors battled back to force overtime for the second straight contest. With Greenville controlling the play in the offensive zone, Andrew Rowe hooked up with Michael St. Croix, who ripped in a shot from the left circle.
''They really came at us in the third period. I mean they were flying and that is as good as I have seen a team play against us this year,'' Donatelli said. ''But the guys hung in there.
''They don't get rattled and they are resilient.''
The game was a lot chipper than the previous two in Wheeling, perhaps a product of Greenville being at home, Donatelli said.
''The more chippy, the more it suits us. We're not going anywhere,'' the coach said. ''We've been battling all year with the Elmiras and Readings of the world. This isn't new for us.''
In a game of big performances, Wheeling goaltender Mike Condon again stood out. The rookie made 43 saves to improve to 5-1-1.
''He's our rock,'' Donatelli said.
One Nailers victory in the next two games would bring the series back to Wheeling for a Game 6 on Monday night. The club isn't thinking that far ahead, though.
''I think it's starting all over again and doing the same Thursday,'' Donatelli said. ''I don't think momentum has swung at all in this series, not even after the second game.
''Our team is ready for the task.''
Wheeling1 1 0 1 - 3
Greenville0 1 1 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Kuhnhackl 5 (Stevenson, Sylvester), 2:54. Penalties-Gill Whl (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:32; Clark Grn (roughing), 3:32; Grassi Whl (holding), 7:58; Johnston Grn (hooking), 12:33; Merth Whl (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00; Arnold Grn (roughing), 20:00.
2nd Period-2, Wheeling, Sylvester 1 (Gill, Torquato), 2:10 (PP). 3, Greenville, Yogan 4 (Nicholls, Johnston), 15:13. Penalties-Stamler Grn (roughing), 1:45; Johnston Grn (interference), 3:03; Kuhnhackl Whl (interference on the goalkeeper), 3:48; Minella Whl (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:45; Clark Grn (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:45; Arnold Grn (tripping), 11:20.
3rd Period-4, Greenville, St. Croix 2 (Rowe, Nicholls), 19:47. Penalties-Areshenko Whl (hooking), 3:05; Vaive Grn (holding the stick), 3:05; Marcou Grn (misconduct), 17:56.
OT Period-5, Wheeling, Ratchuk 2 (Minella, Merth), 8:18. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 13-14-11-5-43. Greenville 12-14-13-6-45.
Power Play opportunities-Wheeling 1-4; Greenville 0-2.
Goalies-Wheeling, Condon 5-1-1-0 (45 shots-43 saves). Greenville, Missiaen 5-2-1-0 (43 shots-40 saves).
Referee-Nic Leduc (14); Linesmen-Shaun Morgan (71), Ryan Daisy (64).