ORONO — A funny thing happened on the way to overtime for the hard-luck Maine hockey team Friday.

Defenseman Sam Becker snaked a shot from the point through traffic and it bounced off a Princeton defender and plunged to the ice. Center Will Merchant took a half-blind swipe at it, baseball-style, and caught the puck flush, flinging it past goaltender Colton Phinney with 51.7 seconds remaining.

Maine went on to win its third consecutive game, 5-3, before an announced crowd of 3,951 at Alfond Arena.

“Good job for (Becker) getting it through. The last minute there, you always want to get things on net,” Merchant said after his team-leading fifth goal. “It just popped up in the air. I really didn’t see it, I mean I had a little glimpse of it, but it spun around and fortunate enough to land right on my stick, pretty much.

“I brought out the nine-iron for that.”

The Black Bears (3-8-3) won their third consecutive game after not finding much fortune early in the season. Four games went to overtime, and Maine didn’t win any.

Friday’s effort saw Maine charge back in the third period after Princeton (2-7) took its first lead 7:48 in, with a power-play goal that made the score 3-2.

Cedric Lacroix and Andrew Tegeler teamed up for a beautiful play off a faceoff to net the tying goal at 13:01 of the period. Tegeler had had a similar chance in the first period on a draw, and noticed that Princeton was lining up in a manner that screened Phinney. They discussed that between periods.

When the time came, Lacroix sent a clean pass back to Tegeler in the right circle, and he snapped off a shot that beat Phinney to the far side for a 3-3 tie. It was Tegeler’s first career goal as a Black Bear. The senior also scored one four seasons ago while playing for Massachusetts.

“He won it back pretty clean and it was just an easy shot through a screen. I knew exactly where I was going,” Tegeler said.

“I just needed to take a step to the right and put it on the far side, on the blocker side.”

Said Phinney: “I saw it enough. He just beat me. Good shot.”

It was one of 43 shots Maine put on net in its highest-scoring game of the year. Steven Swavely added an empty-net goal for the final margin of victory.

Princeton beat Maine 3-1 on Oct. 31. Tigers Coach Ron Fogarty saw a rejuvenated group of Black Bears in the rematch.

“They finished more of their opportunities, and when you win a couple of games and you can score a goal early, it gives you that momentum,” Fogarty said. “They looked good. Once you get those tangible results, it’s easier to progress.”

Nolan Vesey deflected a shot past Phinney 7:09 into the game, and Blaine Byron scored a power-play goal in the second period. Each time, Princeton’s David Hallisey tied the score.

But when the Tigers took the lead, Maine took its play up a notch.

“It’s something we’ve been working on, battling in the third period, and I think that’s something we’ve really improved on this year,” said Merchant, whose team swept Vermont last weekend and faces Princeton again here at 7 p.m. Saturday. “No one gave up. Everyone fought. And it’s good to have something like that where you can finish out third periods of games and win them.”