By DAVE PAUL
The Sarnia Sting ended a couple of losing streaks, Friday night at RBC Centre.
First, and most importantly, their 4-3 victory over Plymouth snapped a six-game losing streak. And the win was also Sarnia's first shootout victory of the season in five tries.
With the extra time victory, the Sting gained a point on the Whalers, who currently hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Sarnia now trails Plymouth by four points -- although the Sting's 30 points is only two more than Belleville, which is last overall in the OHL with 28.
The Sting's best players had good games on Friday as Sarnia got goals from the three highest-scoring players on its top-heavy scoring standings while also receiving another standout performance from the game's first star, goalie Taylor Dupuis.
Sarnia's Nikolay Goldobin opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period. It was Goldobin's 30th goal of the season and it extended his consecutive game point streak to 21.
Newly-named team captain Nick Latta scored his 24th of the year early in the second period, deflecting home a shot on the power play to give Sarnia a 2-0 lead.
But shortly after the midway point of the period, the Whalers got two quick goals -- from Connor Sills and Carter Sandlak -- to tie the game at 2-2.
Anthony DeAngelo scored his 10th of the season early in the third period and, despite being outshot by a wide margin, the Sting were able to cling to the one-goal lead until late in the game.
Plymouth got a long power play opportunity at 10:54 of the third when the Sting's newest player, Hayden Hodgson was called for a questionable five-minute major for delivering a head check. Then, with just a few seconds left in that penalty, DeAngelo took a cross-checking penalty to extend the Plymouth power play chance to nearly seven consecutive minutes.
Plymouth coach Mike Vellucci made an unusual decision to pull his goalie with nearly four minutes left in the game to try to get the equalizer with a six-on-four skater advantage.
The decision very nearly backfired when another Sting newcomer, Brandon Lindberg, hit the side of the net with a shot from just outside the Plymouth blue line a short time later.
Still, it looked like the Sting might kill the second penalty off as well, until with just six seconds left in the man advantage, the Whalers snuck one past Dupuis, who made the initial stop on a Yannick Rathgeb shot, before inadvertently knocking the puck into the net with his elbow as he tried to find it while lying on the ice.
The Sting got a power play in overtime but could not take advantage.
Goldobin and Daniel Nikandrov (in the sixth round) scored in the shootout for Sarnia.
After the game, Sting coach Trevor Letowski said it was an important point for his team to collect and added he feels the team is "recharged" with its recent addition.
"We had a really good effort in Sault Ste. Marie (a 3-2 shootout loss) on Wednesday," said Letowski, adding there is a real "team feeling" now that they know "this is the group we're going with the rest of the way."
The coach also said he was happy for Latta, after naming him team captain.
"He deserves it. He's a great kid and a good role model," said Letowski. "I would have done it sooner but we wanted to make sure he was going to be here. ... We didn't want to put a 'C' on his jersey then (end up trading him)."
For his part, Latta said he was extremely happy to remain in Sarnia.
"I know my name was out there," in the trade rumours, said Latta. "I'm not going to lie to you, I was a little nervous leading up to (the trade deadline).
"In the end, I'm really happy I'm staying Sarnia," he added. "I think we have a good thing going here."
-Sarnia was outshot 40-28
-The Sting visit Owen Sound on Saturday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m.