EAST LANSING, Mich. — Wisconsin scored three goals in the last 9:41, turning a 1-0 deficit late in the third period into a 3-1 win Friday night against Michigan State.
Despite trailing with fewer than 10 minutes left to play, the Badgers did not panic. They had been outworked, outshot and out muscled for 50 minutes of play, but they seemed to know that they would have their chance to win if they were patient and waited for their spot.
“We were surprisingly relaxed. It wasn’t a panic or a screaming match,” said senior captain Adam Burish. “Guys knew that they were getting out-worked, and they were more disappointed than worried or nervous that’s a sign of a mature group of guys.”
“(This win) is the cumulative effect of having an upperclassmen team. They have been in a lot of situations like that, so their leadership takes over naturally,” said Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves.
Burish scored the game winner with just 4:11 left in the third period. The goal certainly was not pretty, but it was the hard-working type of goal that the Badgers depend so heavily upon.
“There was a bunch of traffic. (Joe Pavelski) got a shot off and it hit something and popped to me backdoor. I was just hanging out and leaning on my stick, and it came right to me,” Burish said.
Burish’s tally was due in large part to a giant swing in momentum after Jake Dowell knotted the game at 1-1. Ryan MacMurchy created the play by going in deep on the forecheck and wrestling a loose puck away from a defenseman. He was able to find Dowell at the bottom of the left circle for a snapshot into the back of the net.
“Once they got the first one, you can tell that we got worried. We went from playing hard to being worried, and that’s a tough mental state to be in,” said MSU coach Rick Comley.
“That play won the game for us,” said Burish. “(He) beat a guy to a 50/50 puck and made a great pass. That’s what got us going and was the turning point in the game.”
“He was not very fancy, but he chipped the puck in, he went in and won battles, and he shot the puck well. Of all the guys, he played his game the entire game,” said Eaves of MacMurchy.
MacMurchy was later treated for his effort with an empty-netter to seal the win. The goal was also characteristic of his play on the evening, as a gritty backhanded clearing attempt from 130 feet tucked itself neatly inside the left post.
The terrific play of goaltender Brian Elliott kept the Badgers in the game while they searched for the equalizer. The junior improved upon his nation-leading goals against and save percentage statistics, turning away 19 of 20 shots.
“He was solid. When you watch Brian, there is not a lot of wasted motion. He stops the ones he should and maybe 3-5 of the ones he should not,” said Eaves.
Elliott even got a little help on the shots that he could not save. Early in the third period, Nick Surcharski broke in on the stalwart keeper and beat him high, but the puck clanked off of the crossbar to keep the score 1-0.
“We hit the post in the third, and if it goes in it’s 2-0. That’s the kind of rut we’re in,” said Comley.
With the loss, Michigan State drops to 5-6-3 after opening the season 5-1-1. The Spartans are now winless in their last seven games, three of which they have surrendered a third period lead. This marks their longest winless streak since an eight-game skid in 1980-81.
In contrast, the win extends the Badgers’ unbeaten streak to 11 consecutive games, and also marked the 13th consecutive game in which Wisconsin allowed two goals or less.
The Badgers’ superb penalty kill played a huge role in the victory, limiting the Spartans to one goal on eight attempts, including a critical kill just after Dowell scored to make it 1-1. Some noise was made about Eaves taking a timeout as Jeff Likens was whistled to the box, but it worked out in the Badgers’ favor.
Wisconsin was busy doing what it does best in the first period. The Badgers put MSU on the power play four times, but the nation’s best PK was quietly killing them off one by one. Just two tenths of a second away from escaping to the locker room with a scoreless tie, Elliott and Wisconsin finally surrendered a goal to the Spartan power play. Captain Drew Miller picked up a loose puck just outside the crease and flipped it over Elliott’s shoulder to give Michigan State a huge lift after one.
Michigan State will look to snap its streak against a hot Minnesota club tomorrow night, while No. 2 Wisconsin travels downstate to play No. 1 Michigan in one of the most highly anticipated games of the early season.