The Bombers found out a lesson the hard way Tuesday - don't leave things to the last minute. Despite a late push, a miserable second period sunk their ship in a 5-4 loss to Melfort.
Flin Flon trailed by as much as three through part of the third and while two late goals brought the team close to forcing overtime, the Mustangs would hold on for the win.
The Mustangs would get on the board within seconds of the game getting underway, with Clarke Huxley getting a quick pass in the slot and getting the puck past Harmon Laser-Hume. Melfort would keep that lead until midway through the frame, where Cole Duperreault continued his recent hot streak with a quick snapper from the high slot that beat Melfort's James Venne.
Five minutes later, Melfort took the lead back at four-on-four, when Carson Leroux and Ben Tkachuk both blew past their defenders, Tkachuk fed Leroux and Leroux made no mistake. That lead would also be clawed back later in the frame, once again by Duperreault - after a couple of long, quick passes covered much of the ice, Jeremi Tremblay fed Duperreault on the side of the goal and the forward got his second goal on the night and fifth goal in the past two games. Both teams were tied at two going into the second.
The game ran away from Flin Flon in the second, giving up a goal only 11 seconds into the period. After icing the puck not long after the opening faceoff, Tkachuk won the ensuing faceoff forward and got a shot off while being tripped, getting the puck through Laser-Hume. Barely a minute later, Melfort continued, with a high slot shot from Zac Somers making it 4-2 and ending Laser-Hume's night prematurely. The goalie got the yank after that, with rookie Kenneth Marquart heading into the crease in relief.
Both teams would trade momentum throughout the rest of the second period, but Melfort took the 4-2 lead with them into the third.
Back-and-forth play would continue to be the order of the day, but the Mustangs would extend the lead, with Tkachuk burning a Bomber defender wide and scoring to make it 5-2.
Melfort gave the Bombers chances late, getting into penalty trouble. Alexi Sylvestre put one past Venne to make it 5-3, then later, with former Bomber Wyatt Cook in the box, the Bombers drew within one after Tremblay banged another puck past Venne.
The Bombers would kill a late penalty and go back to even strength with four minutes to go, but could not execute late. A two-on-one chance for Duperreault and Jacob Vockler with minutes left was broken up by Melfort, as was a late chance by Vockler fired from the sideboards.
Tremblay took a late penalty with less than three minutes left on the clock, putting the Bombers a man down at a crucial juncture. Flin Flon would claw their way back into making it a contest despite being a man short, almost forcing Venne to turn the puck over near his own net at one point. The Bombers would kill the penalty off and rush back into the zone late, but could not get the job done - their mid-game failings proving to be too much to overcome.
Laser-Hume stopped four of the eight shots he saw in 21:14 of action - Marquart stopped 12 shots in his relief stint, only giving up a goalie on Tkachuk's third period marker. Venne, on the other hand, got the win with a 33 save performance.
While they were in second place in the league as recently as a week ago, the Bombers are now in danger of falling out of a home ice playoff spot. Flin Flon now sits fourth in the standings with 51 points, while Estevan and Melfort sit tied in fifth and sixth with 49 points each. Humboldt is now two points ahead in third place, while La Ronge has both second place and top spot in the Sherwood division with 54 points. Going by points percentage, the Bombers remain in third place in the league behind Battlefords and Humboldt.
The Bombers will play a pair of games this weekend at the Whitney Forum against the Bruins, a two game series that will have big repercussions on the league standings. Puck drops at the Forum at 7:30 p.m. local time Jan. 27 and 28.