It was a long time coming, but Jesse Puljujarvi’s first goal of the season came at a good time for the Bakersfield Condors.
Puljujarvi scored a power-play goal with eight minutes left Wednesday night to give Bakersfield its first lead, as the Condors came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Manitoba 5-2 at Rabobank Arena.
“It’s good to know you can come back, but you don’t want to be chasing the game,” Condors coach Gerry Fleming said.
While Puljujarvi’s goal was a much-needed spark, it was the play of the bottom-six forwards — and goaltender Nick Ellis — that kept the Condors in the game.
Ellis stopped 33 shots and the Condors got four goals — two by Braden Christoffer (the last into an empty net) and one each from David Gust and Josh Currie — from their bottom-six forwards.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and brought the Condors to .500 (4-4-0-0).
Christoffer’s first goal, 14:21 into the second, cut Manitoba’s lead to 2-1 and a fight, which he easily won early in the third period, seemed to spark the Condors.
“I think this is my sixth game so I needed to get one in to get going on the season,” Christoffer said of his first goal.
And the timing was right for a fight, he said.
“I think it can bring a lot of energy, especially in a building like tonight,” Christoffer said. “A Wednesday night game, the World Series is on, you don’t expect too many people in the stands. There was a little lull and hopefully that got the guys going.”
Fleming said the fight played a big role.
“That fight, I think, swung the momentum around and brought some life back into the building,” he said. “Good for Christo.”
David Gust tied the game for the Condors at 7:03 with his third goal of the season and Puljujarvi’s first at 11:37 kept the team rolling. Josh Currie, with his family in from Prince Edward Island, added an insurance goal with four minutes left and Christoffer found the empty net with 41 seconds left.
“Hard work,” Fleming said of the play of the bottom-six forwards. “There’s no substitute for hard work. Sweat equity is what we like to call it. Those guys really provided the spark and energy we needed tonight.”
Manitoba got both of its goals in the second period, the first on a power play when Cameron Schilling’s shot from just inside the blue line sailed through traffic and past Ellis for the 1-0 lead.
The Moose took a 2-0 lead at 9:08 when Brody Sutter scored on a breakaway.
Christoffer’s goal, with 5:39 left in the period came when he hammered a rebound into a wide-open net off a shot by Ryan Mantha.
Ellis made a big glove save on Jack Roslovic, who broke in all alone, with three minutes left to keep it a one-goal game.