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MADISON, Wis. — A big penalty kill shifted the momentum enough for Michigan State to grab a late winner and end a long road drought.
MacKenzie MacEachern scored to break a tie with 1:36 remaining, and the Spartans earned their first road sweep in more than four years with a 3-1 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday.
The Spartans killed 62 seconds of a Badgers two-man advantage shortly before MacEachern took a pass from Thomas Ebbing and beat Matt Jurusik from the slot to snap a 1-1 tie.
Ebbing blocked two Grant Besse shots on the five-on-three power play, while goaltender Jake Hildebrand stopped shots by Besse and Cameron Hughes.
“In hindsight,” Spartans coach Tom Anastos said of the penalty kill, “that may be the game.”
Hildebrand stopped 26 shots for the Spartans (9-20-3, 5-10-1 Big Ten), who swept a road series for the first time in the Big Ten era.
Their last pair of road wins on a weekend was in a CCHA series at Ohio State on Feb. 3-4, 2012.
“I think it’s something this group can build momentum off of,” Hildebrand said. “I don’t think anybody in that room is happy with the way the season has gone, but we never stop believing in the group we have. I think we can get a lot of confidence from this weekend.”
Ebbing was credited with one other shot block, also on a Badgers power play in the second period. But that one — a Tim Davison rocket from the blue line — hit Ebbing in the groin, sending him to the locker room with assistance from the team’s athletic trainer.
He returned before the end of the period and ended up dishing the pass to MacEachern for the winner in the third.
“It was a heck of an effort,” Anastos said. “And then to make the plays that he played, he really stepped up. That was a real courageous effort.”
The Badgers (6-15-7, 1-10-3-1) are winless in regulation in 10 Big Ten games in 2016 (0-8-2) and fell eight points behind Ohio State in the league cellar.
Wisconsin’s Seamus Malone scored seven minutes into the third period to tie the game at 1-1, and Jurusik stopped 19 shots.
MacEachern scored into an empty net from the neutral zone with 23 seconds left to put the game away.
“Obviously, they all sting,” Besse said. “But I thought we had our chances to take the lead there in the third, especially with the five-on-three and we weren’t able to capitalize there and ended up giving that goal up at the end. I don’t know if it stings any more than any other one, but it’s not a great feeling right now.”
MSU captain Michael Ferrantino put the Spartans ahead late in the first period when he redirected a Zach Osburn shot past Jurusik.
The Spartans gave up the lead in the third period for the third straight game, but they have two wins and a tie in that stretch.
“I liked how we fought through adversity,” Anastos said. “For us, this was a real good weekend.”