YOUNGSTOWN - After sitting in the penalty box for around 14 minutes, Youngstown's John Padulo was itching to get back on the ice to repay his teammates for his mistake.
The Rochester, N.Y., native tied the game at the 14:01 mark in the second period on the power play, but the referees gave him an unsportsmanlike misconduct penalty for saying something to the opposing bench that forced the Phantoms' power forward to sit out until halfway through the third period.
"I had a lot of saved energy," Padulo said. "I stayed in the box for 14 minutes, so that was the least I could do - make a difference. I think I did, and that was a turning point in the game."
On his first shift back on the ice, the right winger did just that, helping set up the go-ahead goal in the Phantoms' 4-2 win over Dubuque at the Covelli Centre on Tuesday night to stretch their season out to another game. The fifth and deciding game is Saturday in Dubuque.
Padulo stole the puck on the forecheck and got it to Cam Brown, who found a streaking Austin Cangelosi on the left wing. The Youngstown captain had a wide-open net to shoot into to give his team the 3-2 lead.
"It was a huge forecheck by Padulo, just laid a crushing hit on the defenseman," Cangeolsi said. "I saw no one was in front of the net, so I snuck backdoor. (Brown) gave me a perfect pass.
"I saw the puck coming, and I said, 'I'm going to put this puck in the net.' "
Padulo later sealed the win by flicking the puck over the Dubuque defenders and into the empty net with 1:03 remaining in the game, finishing off his redemption.
While Padulo spent the time off the ice thinking about the penalty, his teammates knew that in order to force Game 5 in the series, the Phantoms needed Padulo, a 5-foot-11 forward, to come out of the box with a clear head and the game still tied.
Considering Padulo's physical role on the team, players such as Josh Nenedal were left to pick up the slack, which they managed to do.
Along with the individual performances on the ice, Youngstown coach Anthony Noreen looked at forward Markus McCrea as a major reason Padulo came back motivated. The Temecula, Calif., native sat in the box for the first 2 minutes to serve the minor portion of Padulo's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
"The first person I'll credit for John when he came out of the box is Markus McCrea," Noreen said. "Markus gets that penalty. We didn't tell him to - he took it upon himself to spend those 2 minutes talking to John.
"He said, 'I told (Padulo) that we need him. I told him to rest up, come out of the box do what he's done all series.' "
Overall, the game saw fewer shots than in the previous games, as they combined to put 41 shots on net.
For Youngstown goalie Sean Romeo, he didn't see as many shots as he would have liked, but he had to credit his defenders for making his job easier. The Phantoms dove all over the ice to block shots, leaving him to make just 18 saves on 20 shots.
"To be honest, I think they had just as many shots as the other night, but our defense did such a good job of blocking shots before they got to me," Romeo said. "At the end of the game, I still had action, but I wasn't feeling the puck."
With the series tied at two games apiece, the Phantoms have the series-decider on Saturday at Dubuque. Although the Saints only lost three times in the regular season and not once during the playoffs at home, the players feel confident they can pull off the upset over the league's best team in the regular season.
"They're going to be going home on a 10-hour bus ride thinking to themselves, 'How did we get up two games and now it's going tied back to our place for Game 5?' " Padulo said. "We have all the momentum, we're a confident bunch and we've always viewed ourselves as the best team in the league."