A bad goal. A couple of other bad calls. A bad second period overall.
Yet, the Quad City Mallards fought through all of those bad breaks for a fantastic finish Friday night.
Darren McMillan's power-play goal with 1:27 remaining broke a 3-3 tie, and Michael Monfredo added his second score of the night on an empty-netter in the final seconds for QC's 5-3 victory over rival Bloomington at Moline's i wireless Center.
The late heroics not only allowed the Flock to recover from three straight Blaze goals that tied the game in the second period but extended QC's lead on Bloomington to eight points for the eighth and final Central Hockey League playoff spot with six regular-season games remaining.
The Mallards (29-25-6, 64 points) meet Bloomington (27-31-2, 56 points) thrice more next weekend to close the campaign. QC's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is five points, any combination of points gained by the Mallards and missed by the Blaze.
"You can't feel comfortable against these guys," QC coach Terry Ruskowski said. "They're so talented. They can really score. We can't get in a run-and-gun game with them. We have to play strong defensively and jump on their mistakes."
That's precisely what QC did Friday, taking advantage of the late power-play opportunity, which also denied Bloomington a chance to pull its goalie late for the extra attacker, with the Blaze needing the regulation decision more than the Mallards.
"We were excited because we knew that gave us the chance to close them out," McMillan said.
"Thank God everyone stayed out of it and gave us the chance to go up a man," added Monfredo. "Somebody could have retaliated when they hit Obi (Aduba) along the boards, and it would have been even up, four-on-four."
Instead, the power play led to McMillan's blue-line blast, and a celebration that carried into the Mallards post-game auction for their special game-worn St. Patrick's Day jerseys. The fundraiser netted $24,600 for Genesis Outpatient Rehabilitation.
"Mike Stinziani made a nice play at the blue line (passing the puck), and I just tried to get a shot on net," McMillan said, downplaying his third goal in the last four games. "With our line, the main thing with the power play is just getting as many shots as we can on the net, and mine just happened to find its way in."
The victory also moved the Mallards into a sixth-place tie with Tuesday foe Denver (28-25-8, 64 points), a 4-2 loser Friday at Missouri (31-23-6, 68 points). QC faces Missouri tonight (in Independence) and Sunday (back at the i-wi).
Arizona (29-27-6, 64 points) later forced a three-way tie for sixth, beating playoff-qualifier Wichita, 4-3, to further damage the Blaze's flickering playoff hopes.
Bloomington's loss also meant fourth-place Rapid City (32-24-6, 70 points) clinched a playoff spot despite a 4-2 loss Friday to Tulsa.
"All we can control is what we do," McMillan said about the playoff race. "You just try and not get too high or too low and just keep playing hard through it all."
That was good advice for Friday, too, with a controversial illegal headcheck call on QC's Jason Kostadine leading to Bloomington's game-tying explosion.
The Blaze's second goal also was contested, with the Mallards contending there was goalie interference before the puck slipped into the net.
"You can't control what the refs do. Sometimes goals go in like that," McMillan reasoned. "You just have to deal with it and come back hard the next shift, and that's what we did (Friday)."
Despite being outshot 39-27, the Mallards built the early 3-0 lead on the strength of Mickey Lang's penalty shot, for the CHL MVP candidate's 37th goal of the season, and another shorthanded goal in the second by Matt Boyd.
In between them was Monfredo's first goal of the night, second of the season, and second in as many Friday's before the empty-netter.
The road setback was Bloomington's second in five days at QC. The slumping Blaze, a 3-2 loser here Sunday, last won a road game Feb. 12 at QC.
The win was the Mallards sixth in their last seven starts, the exception an 8-5 setback Tuesday at Bloomington.
The decision also marked Ruskowski's 700th CHL game as a coach. Earlier this season, the long-time coach also celebrated his 400th CHL win and 600th victory as a minor-league coach.
"This was a great opportunity to show our character and I'm proud of them for doing that," Ruskowski said. "They didn't buckle or die. We just kept on coming."