Sylvester scored his second goal of the game with less than minute left to play as the Abbotsford Heat rallied to beat the Lake Erie Monsters 4-3 in a shootout on Saturday in American Hockey League action.
After being a scratch Wednesday night in a 6-2 loss to Rochester, Sylvester scored his first multi-goal game of the year to help the Heat comeback to defeat the Monsters.
“He showed up and wanted to make a statement game for himself,” said teammate Carter Bancks. “He definitely did that with a two-goal game, with a nice tip at the end there. He was basically the reason we got two points, so I felt very happy for him.”
Sylvester deflected Max Reinhart’s wrist shot from the top of the circle past goalie Calvin Pickard while the Heat had the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker.
“I was just standing in front,” said Sylvester. “It got over to Rhino. He had a little bit of time there. I was fortunate enough to get a stick on it and deflect it down and it went in.”
Sylvester’s season has been full of ups and downs. After going 11 games without a point in December and January he then recorded five in five games, before going on a four-game point drought heading into action Saturday.
“It’s always nice to be back in the lineup and back in the dressing room with all the guys,” said Sylvester.
But the five-foot-seven winger’s worth is measured in more ways than just points.
“Dustin's been great,” said Heat head coach Troy Ward. “He continues to provide this organization offence, and he's become grittier. Obviously he's not a very big guy, but he plays with a lot of grit.”
Brett Olson had the other regulation goal for Abbotsford (25-16-7), which increased its lead over Lake Erie (24-17-6) in the North Division to three points.
Roman Horak, Krys Kolanos and Max Reinhart had shootout goals for the Heat, while Barry Brust stopped all three shooters he faced and had 29 saves for his first win since Jan. 20.
Garry Steffes and Daniel Maggio each recorded their first career AHL goal, while Brad Malone also scored for the visitors. Calvin Pickard made 17 saves for the Monsters.
Lake Erie opened the scoring at 6:34 when Mike Connolly kept the puck in the zone and passed to Steffes, who beat Brust with a wristshot.
Sylvester tied the game at 14:49, finishing off a give-and-go with Paul Byron.
Brust kept the game tied at 1 with a point-blank save on Geoff Walker’s slap shot, one of his best saves of the night.
The Monsters made it 2-1 at 4:33 in the second after killing a penalty. Malone’s pass across the crease on a 2-on-1 was deflected past Brust by a defender.
Lake Erie increased the lead to two at 8:41 as Maggio beat Brust with a point shot through a screen.
Abbotsford cut the deficit back to one with 55.4 seconds left in the second. Olson redirected Joe Piskula’s point shot before backhanding in his own rebound.
“That was huge and it was at a big time of the game,” said Bancks. “Down 3-1 we didn’t have a ton going and he went to the net hard and was able to get a good stick on the puck and beat Pickard. It brought a lot of belief in our room that we haven’t been great but we can get this done.”
Then with 51 seconds to go in the third Sylvester picked up his 11th of the season to tie it up.
Brust made six saves in the overtime in which the Monsters had a power play. The Heat killed all four power plays in the game, while they failed to score on four chances of their own.
"Our penalty kill was lights out again,” said Ward. “It gave us a chance to win the hockey game. You've got to kill three-on-four, and you've got guys eating pucks, doing whatever they can to block shots."