A late high sticking call in the final two minutes of the third period cost the Burnaby Lakers Game 1 of the Western Lacrosse Association semifinal playoff.
On the ensuing power play, Lewis Ratcliff scored his third goal of the game on the extra-man to give the regular season champion Langley Thunder a 9-8 victory over the Lakers in the best-of-seven playoff opener at the Langley Events Centre on Wednesday.
"I didn't see (the penalty), said Burnaby head coach Bob Johnston of the team's only penalty call of the final frame.
But Johnston did see Lakers' lefthander Dane Stevens divested of his headgear in an apparent interference situation shortly afterward that went uncalled.
"I felt both teams played a hard, controlled playoff game, but (Langley) defeated us in the faceoff circle," Johnston added.
Burnaby opened up with a 2-0 lead on goals by rookie lefthander Casey Jackson and Colton Clark.
Langley bounced back with a pair of goals less than two minutes apart midway through the frame, but Shaun Dhaliwal of Burnaby put the visitors in the lead a minute later with his first of five points in the match.
Second-star Scott Jones tallied his first of two tallies in the opening minute of the middle period, but Langley responded, outscoring the Lakers 6-3 to take a two-goal lead into the final stanza.
"The second period seems to be a bit of an Achilles heel for us," added Johnston. "They made a couple of plays."
Johnston conceded that two of the goals, by Garrett Billings and Ratcliff, were goal-scorer's goals, while a third occurred off a bad line change.
Trailing by a score of 8-6 until late into the third period, Burnaby began a rally on Stevens' goal on the power play at 16: 13.
Less than two minutes later, Clark knotted the contest at 8-8 with his second of the game from Carlton Schuss.
Burnaby keeper Dan Lewis and Langley stopper Brodie MacDonald had similar outings, both coming away with 39 saves apiece.
Ratcliff and Billings led all scorers with six points apiece.
Jones and Jackson also had four points each for the Lakers.
Burnaby was three-for-three on the power play, while the Thunder capitalized on three of four extra-man advantages.
Errors aside, Johnston liked the effort put forward by the Lakers in their first playoff game in four seasons.
"All things being equal, it was as good as the group has played," Johnston said, adding that the series is long from over.
"You know what, those guys on (Langley) have earned their reputation. But we're in the tournament for the first time. Let's see what happens," he said.
Game 2 of the series is in Burnaby at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. Game time is 7: 45 p.m.
Game 3 is back in Langley on Tuesday.
The other semifinal series between the Coquitlam Adanacs and the league runnerup Victoria Shamrocks gets underway in the provincial capital on Saturday.