A referee's judgment Saturday at South Surrey Arena likely cost the Langley Rivermen at least a point in the standings.
With the Surrey Eagles leading 4-3 early in the third period, what the 'Men perceived as a quick whistle nullified the potential tying goal.
The hosts later added an empty-net tally to win 5-3.
"I think we deserved at least a point," Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson said. "It is what it is. At end of the day, we didn't get it. Sometimes you get the breaks and sometimes you don't. We didn't get a break and there's not much we can do about it."
Henderson said the Rivermen will simply have to move forward and put the loss behind them.
"I think we deserved to win," he added. "We had that bad call and couldn't get a break. Really, it's been three games in a row where we've had some tough bounces. But we've just got to get better each outing."
The loss continues a season of dominance for the Eagles against the Rivermen. The Eagles have now won six of seven meetings between the two B.C. Hockey League Mainland Division rivals.
Henderson said the reason the Eagles have had the Rivermen's number this season comes down to two factors: Surrey has an elite team, and mounting losses to the Eagles have crept into the Langley players' heads.
"No. 1 is, they're one of the top teams in the league but beyond that, we've been struggling to find the confidence that we can beat them. Our last two games [against the Eagles], we've taken huge strikes in that area [with Surrey winning by scores of 3-1 on Jan. 26 and 5-3]."
For the second time in a week, Rivermen goaltender James Barr went up against Surrey's Michael Santaguida in between the pipes.
The Rivermen started off the game on the right foot with a goal from Matt Ustaski. The big centre spotted a loose puck off a scramble in front of the Surrey net and shoveled it home for his 10th of the season.
The lead would not last long as a shift later, Surrey's Nicholas Pierog tied the game with a long shot along the ice that beat Barr low on the stick side.
With time winding down, the Eagles' Michael Stenerson and Brady Shaw connected for the go-ahead goal. Shaw made a great play to enter the attacking zone and feathered a perfect pass on the tape of Stenerson who redirected home his 14th goal of the year.
In the second period, Stenerson and Shaw got back on the board, but this time it was Stenerson setting up Shaw to make it 3-1 Eagles.
The Rivermen battled back to cut the lead to one on a blast from Mitch McLain.
Matt Ustaski won the draw directly back to McLain who one-timed a slap shot past Santaguida, catching the Surrey netminder off guard.
The 'Men completed the comeback with a highlight-reel goal from Austin Azurdia. The rookie winger evaded a defender from behind the goal and stickhandled his way to the net before firing a shot top corner to even the score.
The tie was short-lived as the Eagles struck again on the next shift. Surrey captain Brett Mulcahy took the puck down the left wing and drove hard to the net past a Rivermen defenceman before sliding home the fourth Eagles' goal. That would be the last goal of a very entertaining second period.
Controversy reigned early in the third period with a disallowed goal from McLain. The gritty winger took a pass behind the defence and was hauled down, causing a delayed penalty call, but McLain refused to give up on the play. On all fours, he chipped the puck past Santaguida.
Referee Marc Pearce decided that he blew the whistle before the puck had gone into the net.
The Eagles iced the game with an empty net goal from Trevor Cameron as they skated away with a two-goal victory.
Santaguida would pick up the win, while Barr was charged with the loss as more than 70 combined shots were fired at both goaltenders.
The loss dropped the 'Men's record to 17-19-1-5.
The Eagles improved to 28-12-2-3.
The 'Men will play host to the Coquitlam Express for the last time this season tonight (Tuesday) at the Langley Events Centre.
Opening puck drop is 7:15 p.m.
The Rivermen remain three points up on the Express (18-27-1-0) in the battle for the final playoff spot in the Mainland.
Langley will look to snap a three-game losing skid while the Express will try to vanquish the memory of an embarassing 11-0 whitewash at the hands of the Penticton Vees on Saturday night.
"We've just got to get back in the win column," Henderson said. "They had a tough one up in Penticton this weekend so they're going to be fired up and ready to play. I expect it to be like a playoff game."