Mickey Lang said ahead of Friday night that his Quad City Mallards have shown an uncanny ability to play their best hockey this season when their backs have been pinned firmly against the wall.
The Mallard proved their scoring leader right again in a do-or-die Game 4, with the Flock using a four-goal, first-period flourish to frustrate Fort Worth, and win the initial fight against playoff elimination, 5-2 at the i wireless Center.
Lang scored twice in that opening onslaught, helping the Mallards to their first win in this best-of-seven series, assuring the local team and their followers of at least Game 5 tonight back at the downtown Moline arena.
Lang now has four goals in the first-round CHL playoff series, 16 in his last 16 starts, and 45 on the season.
"We've faced adversity all season, but it seems we have some guys that can rise to the occasion,'' said Shayne Toporowski, QC's 18-year veteran.
"At the start of the season, nobody counted us in for anything. The team was thrown together within a week. Things have come together nicely, but we have a long way to go. This game was certainly a step in the right direction. But our backs are still to the wall, and now we're just looking to get win No. 2.''
The win before 4,125 fans also was QC's first home playoff victory in six years.
The Mallards, who haven't won a playoff series since finishing as the UHL runner-up in 2003, last won a postseason contest at home on April 18, 2007, in Game 3 of a failed first-round series with Rockford.
"It shows that when we want it, we can get it,'' QC goalie John Murray said. "If we play like that first period the rest of this season, we're going to win a lot more hockey games.''
The first period included two goals, 14 seconds apart, in the first 4:15 of the contest.
After Lang capitalized on a rare turnover by the Texans, for an unassisted goal, Toporowski took advantage of another Fort Worth mistake to knock home a rebound, off assists by Mike Stinziani and Jason Dixon.
"It was a weird play,'' Lang said of his initial score. "It was a funny bounce off that guy's skates and I just wanted to get a shot on net.
"(The big start) was huge for us. We scored the first goal in the first two games, but to go up two goals opened up some more offense for us. They had to start taking some chances. Down 2-0, they're not as good defensively.''
The Mallards then broke an 0-for-7 power-play streak in this series by adding a pair of man-advantage goals in less than four minutes.
Lang had the first power-play score with 10:52 gone, off a pretty feed by Anthony Perdicaro.
That chased Brahma goaltender Kristofer Westblom from the game.
Then, with 14:55 expired in the 20-minute opening act, Perdicaro banged home an Obi Aduba pass for the 4-0 edge.
The Mallards also held a commanding 19-5 lead in shots on goal at the first intermission.
"It was a great start,'' Toporowski said. "We came out with guns blazing.
"That's what happens when your back's to the wall. You're like a caged animal right now. We're fighting for our playoff lives here, and I'm not going out quitting, I'll tell you that much.
"Hopefully we have that mentality (tonight). We have to be ready. They still want it.''
Matt Boyd later added a rebound goal in the second period for a 5-0 lead, but Fort Worth avoided the playoff shutout with two goals in the third, the last snapping on 0-for-8 power-play drought with 13 seconds remaining.
John Murray, who suffered the first two losses of this series, including an overtime setback in Game 3 Wednesday, turned away 37 of 39 shots by the Brahmas.
"Murray was outstanding again,'' QC coach Terry Ruskowski said. "And `Topper' played like something else. He was intense and hitting guys and really set the tone for us.
"We played hard. We were moving our feet. We made good passes. Our defensemen didn't hold on to the puck. They saw somebody open, they got it right to them, and we got the puck and bodies to the net.''
More importantly, Ruskowski said, the Flock showed the fight that's defined them this season, which included training-camp delays and a season saved a week into the campaign when the building and CHL stepped in for a non-performing owner.
The Mallards also started March out of the playoffs, but closed the season with a CHL-best 11-2 mark, including five straight victories.
``We get to live one more day. We'll see what happens,'' Ruskowski said. ``We have to pounce on them hard again.
``We said we could beat them, but more importantly, now we've shown we can do it. But this is a good hockey team and they're going to bounce back (tonight). We have to be prepared for that.''
Before the game, QC's Mike Hellyer received his CHL Rookie of the Year award. Hellyer is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury in the first five minutes of Game 1.
The Mallards and the arena also raised over $3,000 to help cover the medical expenses of Mallards fan, Diane Wiederholt, who is suffering from the same disease that killed her daughter Maggie during the 2010 season.