The Stealth obviously took a look at what they did wrong against Edmonton the first time around because things were very different on Friday. A healthy Tyler Richards returned in goal and made a big difference. Richards gave up 10 goals, but allowed just one in a stretch that last nearly 30 minutes from late in the second until early in the fourth quarter.
The defense looked a lot more like it did in the first two games of the season. The Stealth's young defenders were more physical with the Rush's talented offensive group. Washington frustrated rookie Mark Matthews, allowing him just one goal, his lowest output of the season.
I wouldn't say that it was a surprise to see the defense and goalkeeping adjust so quickly, but it was certainly a welcome sight for Stealth fans.
The offense played a smarter game on Friday. It didn't explode for a ton of goals, finishing with 12, but it did come up with key scores when they mattered most, including a flurry of three goals in 53 seconds in the third period to give the Stealth their first lead of the game.
The difference in the win was the turnaround on both sides of the ball.
The win also was key for the Stealth in the standings. Washington stayed in first place with the win, at least two games up on every other team in the division. They have a chance to grow that lead even further tonight when they face last place Minnesota on the road.
The unsung hero of the night was Stealth rookie forward Kyle Buchanan, who continues to play very well on offense facilitating his teammates and scoring goals when necessary. Buchanan scored a goal and added three more assists bringing his season total to 13, good enough for fifth in the league.
The player of the game was Richards, who saved 37 of the 47 shots he faced. It may not have been the most outstanding save percentage you will ever see, but his presence on the floor really seemed to energize the Stealth. Richards shutout of the Rush in the third quarter turned momentum in favor of the Stealth and helped lead them to their third victory of the season.
The offensive player of the game was forward Lewis Ratcliff. Just five days after getting held off the score sheet by the Rush, Ratcliff recorded a hat trick and had one assist to help the Stealth turn things around.
Washington completes its back-to-back road games tonight when they face Minnesota at 5 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.
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