And then the number was six -- as in points.
That's how much first-place Muskegon's lead over the Fort Wayne Komets has dwindled to, with a 5-2 victory for the Komets in the books. It was a night when Fort Wayne put together perhaps its best back-to-back periods of the year, building a 4-0 lead that the Lumberjacks cut into only because referee Craig Welker kept whistling penalties on the Komets in the third period.
The Komets took five penalties in the third, including a double minor to Matt Syroczynski and a high stick to Kevin Bertram that gave the Lumberjacks almost two minutes of two-man advantage. The 'Jacks took advantage to pump two pucks past Komets goaltender Tim Haun -- who loudly protested the second, claiming a man was in his crease.
The verdict from the press box: He might or might not have been right. It was close. Could have gone either way.
In any case, the 'Jacks have now lost four in a row, and the Komets have won 8 of their last 10. And if they keep playing as well as they played tonight, particularly defensively, you've got to like their chances.
A couple of loose ends:
* Komets coach Al Sims praised his team's defensive effort generally and the play of his checking line in particular. It limited Muskegon's Todd Robinson, the league's leading scorer, to just four shots and a minus-2 plus/minus.
"I thought our third line did a hell of a job on Robinson's line," Sims said. "Forcing (Muskegon coach Rich) Kromm to break them up in the third period shows you how good a job they did on them. They kept Robinson in his own zone most of the time."
* Two of the Komets hottest players, Konstantin Shafranov and Sean O'Connor, continued to stack up points. Shafranov scored his 16th goal of the season and O'Connor added two more assists.
* Bobby Phillips continues to impress on defense. After breaking up that 3-on-1 against Bloomington Wednesday, he was all over the ice again tonight.