JEFF LEGUE has been the provider of many memorable moments during his 10-year Sheffield Steelers career - but few, perhaps, as well-timed as last night in Altrincham.
With just 73 seconds remaining, the 34-year-old struck a powerplay winner for his team, sealing a 4-3 triumph over Manchester Storm and sending them into this weekend’s double header against leaders Cardiff Devils just two points adrift of the South Wales club.
Defeat would have left Cardiff completely in control of their own destiny, while it would also have given arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers a glimpse of second place given their recent run of form which - after last night’s 2-1 win in Coventry - has taken them back up to third and four points behind Steelers with two games in hand.
“We let them back in but we’ve got the two points that will allow us to continue trying to retain a championship,” said head coach Paul Thompson afterwards.
“Thank god for Jeff Legue. I stuck him on the 5-on-3 and he’s scored two good goals for us. His job has changed in the last couple of years with the team, but he got two goals here and Luke (Ferrara) pops up with one and it’s our secondary guys who are getting the job done at the minute.
“But it’s not really about who, what and how - it’s just about getting the job done. And we got it done tonight, although we know we gave ourselves problems with giving away penalties and letting them back in and we’ve got to be smarter.
“But we found a way here and that is all that matters at the moment.”
Grant Toulmin had given hosts Manchester the lead with a powerplay goal at 3.43 before Legue levelled at 10.00 as second-placed Steelers enjoyed a man advantage of their own.
Then, with just 91 seconds remaining in the period, Swedish forward Freddie Vestberg put the visitors in front with a shorthanded strike.
Luke Ferrara doubled the advantage for Thompson’s team when he fired home his third goal of the season at 34.14.
That is how it stayed until Storm - pushing hard for the eighth and final play-off place - made it a one-goal game with a 49th-minute strike from Mathew Sisca.
At 52.01, with Steelers’ Zack Fitzgerald and Jace Coyle in the penalty box, the hosts took full advantage to level through Sisca’s second of the night.
The game looked to be heading to overtime, like it did on Steelers’ previous visit on New Year’s Day when they won 5-4, but Legue had other ideas, sealing a hard-fought win for the defending champions.