Call these San Diego Gulls the comeback kids.
STATS | WATCH: LOWE TALKS GAME-WINNING TALLY
Keegan Lowe capped off yet another come-from-behind victory - the team's third straight to open the season - scoring with five seconds remaining in overtime to defeat the rival Ontario Reign, 2-1, tonight at FivePoint Arena in Irvine, CA.
The defenseman's first goal for San Diego proved decisive, as he pounced on a bouncing puck at the top of the hashmarks late in regulation and fired a shot past a sliding Matthew Villata.
"To be honest, I blacked out a bit," he said following the win. "I knew there wasn’t much time up on the clock. I took a peek on the way up [the ice]. They want us up in the rush so I followed the play up. The goalie tried to clear the puck so it went past their players. I just went in and tried to put to the side he wasn’t on and it worked out."
Josh Mahura also scored for San Diego, who opened a season with three straight wins for just the second time in team history, joining the inaugural 2015-16 Gulls.
Lukas Dostal delivered another stellar performance, turning aside 40 shots for his third consecutive victory. He became the youngest netminder in Gulls history to win each of his first three starts with the club (20 years, 7 months, 20 days), passing John Gibson in 2015-16 (22 years, 3 months, 11 days).
Dostal currently leads the AHL in saves (109), wins (3) and save percentage (.956, min. 2 GP) and ranks second in goals against average (1.67, min. 2 GP).
"I’ve mentioned it before, but he’s got some composure in there where he makes things look kind of chill, but when it gets fast and furious, in front of the net, you just see that battle come out," head coach Kevin Dineen said. "He’s got that special intangible that bodes very well for his future."
After two periods of relatively penalty-free hockey, both teams found themselves taking frequent trips to the penalty box in the final frame. The penalty kill would swing momentum for San Diego, as the Gulls successfully eliminated a 5-on-3 chance at 6:52 of the third.
Just minutes later, Mahura would score to tie the game at one.
At the end of a power play, Ontario flipped a puck to the point, where it careened past their Reign and into the neutral zone. Mahura, fresh out of the box, picked up the puck and moved in alone on Villata. His quick wrist shot whizzed by the Reign netminder, giving San Diego's defenseman his first goal of the season.
"The whole time you’re just hoping they don’t score and you’re not overly thinking about it too much and as the time starts winding down, just think about getting back into the zone and making sure it gets out so I can get off the ice," Mahura said. "Bounces like that don’t happen every game for you, so it’s nice to capitalize when they do."
Lowe's goal would follow a similar script, as San Diego once again killed off an extended 5-on-3 Ontario power play with under three minutes remaining in regulation.
While Dineen impressed on the need for power play to convert - San Diego went 0-for-6 - he praised the team's penalty kill following the win.
"It would’ve been nice to get a power-play goal to start on special teams," he said. "We’ll start on the constructive part, but obviously, the five-on-three and the way the guys went out there and killed, there was some huge blocks, won faceoffs, and our goaltending has been so good. A lot of the time, he’s your best penalty killer. Some big moments there when we really needed them and out penalty kill did a fine job tonight."
After a scoreless first period, Brett Sutter would get Ontario on the board first snapping a shorthanded goal by Dostal less than two minutes into the middle frame.
San Diego continues its homestand on Friday, opening a back-to-back set against the Colorado Eagles.