A season-high crowd of 6,406 came to Windsor Family Credit Union Centre on New Year's Eve ready to celebrate a Spitfires victory over the Plymouth Whalers.
The Whalers had other plans.
Plymouth got a pair of goals and an assist from Garrett Meurs (16-17), 38 saves from Alex Nedeljkovic and the game-winning goal from Connor Carrick enroute to a well-earned 5-2 win over Windsor on Monday afternoon.
Besides Meurs' pair and Carrick sixth of the year, Plymouth also received goals from Matt Mistele (15th) and an empty netter from Tom Wilson (10th) to improve to 16-12-5-3, good for 40 points. Plymouth remains tied for second place in the Ontario Hockey League West Division with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who defeated Saginaw, 7-3, on Monday.
The Whalers and Greyhounds are now three points behind Sarnia (20-13-0-3, 43 points), who lost, 3-2, to London on Monday afternoon. The Knights won the 24th straight game on Monday.
Windsor - now 14-18-1-5 - remains in fifth place in the OHL West and in ninth place in the Western Conference race.
Meanwhile, Nedeljkovich improved to 3-0-1-1 on the season, lowering his goals against to 2.47 while raising his save percentage to 0.914.
He was tested in the first period, stopping 17-of-18 Windsor shots, with Kerby Rychel's goal coming in a scramble at the right wing post just outside the blue crease to give Windsor a 1-0 lead.
After that, Nedeljkovic and the Plymouth penalty killers went to work and went four-for-five on the penalty kill. The Whalers blocked their share of shots in front of Nedeljkovic.
Meurs tied the game at 1-1 on a Plymouth power play at 19:21 of the period, set up by Carrick, who moved the puck from the right point in the Windsor zone to the lower rim of the right circle. Carrick found Meurs at the left post, wide open, for the goal.
Nedeljkovic came up big in the second period. With the game tied, Windsor's Ryan Verbeek was hooked by Whalers defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto coming in on a partial breakaway at 5:32. Referees Jason Faist and Bob Langdon awarded a penalty shot to Verbeek, but Nedeljkovic stopped Verbeek's shot, getting his right pad on the shot.
A couple of moments later, the Whalers took their first lead of the came at 2-1 at 7:20. Whalers center Cody Payne ripped a high shot that rang off the glass behind the Windsor goal, but caromed in front of the net to Mistele, who scored on a backhand through traffic.
Nedeljkovic came up big again to keep the game at 2-1 Plymouth when he stopped Emerson Clarke on a breakaway.
Then Plymouth extended the lead to 3-1 on Carrick's eventual game-winner at 15:55 of the period, capping pressure in the Windsor zone when he followed a loose puck through traffic at the hashmarks and scored, top shelf.
Nedeljkovic even had some help from one of his best friends in the third period when Windsor's Nick Ebert rang a shot off the post and Nedlejkvoic covered up in the blue ice. The referees did not go to video review on the shot (much to the consternation of Windsor head coach Bob Boughner) and play continued.
Meurs scored a pretty goal at 13:31 of the third period to give the Whalers a 4-1 lead, coming in from neutral territory into the Windsor zone on a partial breakaway on Spitfires goaltender Jaroslav Pavelka. Meurs faked forehand, then drew the puck to the backhand and scored just as he skated past the left post for a 4-1 lead.
After Lorentz scored for Windsor at 14:37 of the third period to cut the Plymouth lead to 4-2, Windsor head coach Bob Boughner pulled Pavelka with 1:20 remaining. But Wilson closed the scoring, shooting the puck from the right boards in his own zone into the empty net at 18:49.
Windsor outshot Plymouth, 40-31.
The Whalers stay on the road Wednesday in Guelph (6:45 pm, 88.1 FM WSDP) before returning home Friday at 7:05 pm against Owen Sound and Saturday at 7:05 pm against Guelph.