A blistering start seemed to have the Alaska Aces shifting smoothly into cruise control Friday night.
Then, in a hockey heartbeat, they encountered rink ruin of an particularly excruciating sort -- they permitted four goals in a mid-game span of just 91 seconds -- that proved shocking from a team that allows barely two goals per ECHL game.
They rebounded, but not well enough, and merely salvaged one point in the standings with their 6-5 overtime loss to the San Francisco Bulls at the Cow Palace in California.
On a night when veteran goaltender Gerald Coleman made his season debut following hip surgery for the second straight offseason, the Aces blew a 3-0 lead they owned halfway through the game and only reached overtime courtesy of Peter Sivak's second goal of the game.
The Bulls celebrated on Dean Ouellet's second goal of the game -- his winner came one minute into overtime.
In their first 31 games this season, the Aces (20-9-3) had never surrendered more than four goals in a game.
Coleman, who led the Aces to the Kelly Cup in 2011, made 29 saves in his first game in more than eight months. San Francisco's Tyler Beskorowany stopped 40 shots and delivered an assist.
Sivak, the Slovak who began his North American career with the Bulls last season, dinged his former club for two goals and two assists. In the second game of the season, he generated a four-assist game in a win against the Bulls (13-18-5).
Alaska jumped to their 3-0 first-period lead on goals from Eli Zuck, who scored just 18 seconds into the game; Sivak, who struck short-handed; and defenseman Drew MacKenzie.
Things went seriously wrong for the Aces midway through the second period, when Jordan Morrison's goal for San Francisco initially seemed somewhat harmless -- it cut Alaska's lead to 3-1 -- but turned into the spark that grew to torch the visitors.
Dale Mitchell followed in short order with two goals in a span of 13 seconds, and Ouelett followed that outburst with a goal just 42 seconds later. In a relative blink, the Bulls owned a 4-3 lead halfway through the match.
The Aces found some equilibrium in Tim Coffman's equalizer four minutes later, yet Morrison struck again less than three minutes after that to restore San Francisco's advantage at 5-4.
Sivak's strike early in the third period forged a 5-5 tie that lasted through regulation.
Despite their collapse, the Aces extended to four games (2-0-2) their streak of going unbeaten in regulation.
The teams close a three-game series Saturday night.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog
First Period -- 1, Aces, Zuck 2 (Mele, Sivak), :18; 2, Aces, Sivak 10 (13:37 (sh); 3, Aces, MacKenzie (Ring-Jarvi, Sivak), 15:02. Penalties -- Gimbatov, SF (tripping), 8:41; Ring-Jarvi, Aces (tripping), 12:48; Langdon, SF, minor-major (removing the helmet, fighting), 16:12; Molle, Aces, minor-major (removing the helmet, fighting), 16:12.
Second Period -- 4, SF, Morrison 8 (Findlay, Mitchell), 8:49; 5, SF, Mitchell 9 (Ouellet, Sevcenko), 9:35 (pp); 6, SF, Mitchell 10 (Findlay), 9:48; 7, SF, Ouellet 8 (Stalberg, Brace), 10:20; 8, Aces, Coffman 7 (Richard), 14:32; 9, SF, Morrison 9 (Mitchell, Beskorowany), 17:17. Penalties -- Bigos, SF (holding), 5:17; Molle, Aces (hooking), 9:18; Zuck, Aces (tripping), 10:48.
Third Period -- 10, Aces, Sivak 11 (Mele), 2:57. Penalties -- Ouellet, SF (hooking), 7:45; Brace, SF (tripping), 8:18; Crane, SF, major (fighting), 16:03; Richard, Aces, major (fighting), 16:03; Gimbatov, SF (roughing), 16:03; Eddy, Aces, double-minor (roughing), 16:03.
Overtime -- 11, SF, Ouellet 9 (Morrison, Sagert), 1:00. Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal -- Aces 16-15-13-1--45. SF 8-11-15-1--35.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 4. SF 1 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 0-0-1 (35 shots-29 saves). SF, Beskorowany, 12-11-3 (45-40).
A -- 2,108 (6,725). T -- 2:32.
Referee -- Andrew Wilk. Linesmen -- Steven Walsh, Brett Martin.