Third-Period Collapse Dooms Gulls

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Gulls have been a third-period team this year--so much so that they were considered almost a lock to beat Phoenix as they entered the final 20 minutes with a one-goal lead Saturday.

But Scott Bjugstad, a hungry Roadrunners team and the law of averages caught up with the Gulls in a 6-4 loss in front of 4,595 at the San Diego Sports Arena.

Bjugstad, 30, a left wing who played 31 games with the Kings last year, had two goals and an assist as Phoenix--which had lost seven of 10 games--outscored the Gulls, 3-0, in the final period.

"I think the third period was pretty evenly played," said Gull Coach Don Waddell, whose team outshot the Roadrunners, 11-10, in the period. "It could have gone either way. It was 4-4 with 19 minutes left. Five on five, I felt we were a better team."

All odds favored the Gulls (8-8). They were 5-1 in games they had entered the third period leading, and they led here, 4-3. They were at home, and they had an NHL goalie, Greg Millen--who was recalled by the New York Rangers after the game--between the posts.

But it was Darryl Gilmour, 24, who outshined Millen, 34, in goal. Gilmour (1-4) stopped 41 of 45 shots, while Millen will return to the NHL with a 2-3 record and a 4.05 goals-against average in the International Hockey League.

Bjugstad, who had two goals and three assists, scored 41 seconds into the period on a continuation of a power play. He scored again with 8:02 left, then got the assist as Jeff Rohlicek iced the game at 6:12. The Gulls had a five-minute power play of their own but could muster nothing. They finished 1-7 on the power play, 1-13 in the two-game series with the Roadrunners.

Until the third period, the Gulls had responded to all that Phoenix threw at them. They came back from a 3-2 deficit in the third period to win, 5-3, Thursday. And it took them only 11 seconds and 1:02 to answer Phoenix's first two goals with scores of their own.

The Gulls trailed, 3-2, after one but outshot Phoenix, 23-5, and took a 4-3 lead in the second period.

The Gulls had two seconds left on a two-man advantage when center Len Hachborn tied it, 3-3, stuffing in Brent Sapergia's tap pass in front of the net. Then wing Steve Martinson scored his third goal in as many games for a 4-3 lead.

Eleven seconds after Kevin MacDonald gave Phoenix a 1-0 lead in the opening period, the Gulls' Robbie Nichols batted an airborne puck into the goal. Marc Saumier beat Millen low to put the Roadrunners back on top, 2-1, at the 14:48 mark.

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