It looked as if the Komets were going to be in command of their own destiny down the stretch.
Instead, there was a third-period collapse and another shootout loss.
After giving up late third-period goals to Evansville’s Matt Gens on a shot from the right circle and Philippe Plante on a 50-footer with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, the Komets lost for the second straight night in a shootout, 4-3, at Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s terrible. We can’t be giving up goals, missing assignments like we did tonight,” said center Brett Smith, adding the Komets “must find a killer instinct soon.”
Fort Wayne got a shootout goal from forward Jean-Michel Rizk, but the IceMen got tallies from John Ronan and former Komets player Sean O’Connor to take a two-point lead in the Turner Conference standings.
Fort Wayne (36-18-6) has six games remaining, five at the Coliseum, where they are 16-7-5. Evansville is 38-18-4.
“With all these home games, we have to establish intimidation,” Fort Wayne center Colin Chaulk said. “We have to have a home-ice presence. We have to be more physical. We need to eliminate mistakes. We need to be more aggressive and force the play, get to playing a puck-possession game.”
In the shootouts, the Komets have scored on only 11 of 46 attempts. Opponents have scored on 18 of 45.
“I think we’d prefer overtime versus the shootout,” said Fort Wayne coach Al Sims, whose team is 4-0 in games decided in overtime and 2-6 in shootouts.
So what happened Saturday?
“There was three minutes to go and they shot a weak shot off (Jean-Michel Rizk’s) stick, and it went in the net, which is totally a fluke. Good fortune for them,” Sims said. “And then our best wasn’t good enough against their best. Todd Robinson beat us on the draw and we allowed the point man to get a shot that he shouldn’t have got. I haven’t got much else to say. We didn’t get the job done.”
Center Leo Thomas put the Komets in control early in front of 10,480 fans, scoring 8:23 into the first period by redirecting Jamie Lovell’s shot from the point past goaltender Brian Gillis.
Right wing Bobby Chaumont made it 2-0 at 7:31 of the second period by accepting center Brett Smith’s pass from behind the net and one-timing it past Gillis.
Both goals came on power plays, where Fort Wayne was 2 for 4. Evansville was 0 for 5, but won for the second time in the last seven games.
Ronan scored from between the circles 5:15 into the third period. But Smith answered less than two minutes later with a shot from the left circle that ricocheted off both goalposts before going in.
Fort Wayne is on a 6-2-3 run that has helped it stay in reach of the IceMen, who had a seven-point lead two weeks ago. Fort Wayne finished the season series with Evansville 7-4-2.
Fort Wayne goaltender Nick Boucher stopped 37 of 40 shots, a night after he stopped only 7 of 10 shots and got yanked after one period in favor of Gerry Festa.
Gillis stopped 36 of 39.
The game was preceded by an 8-5 victory by the Detroit Red Wings’ alumni over a team of Komets Legends, watched by about 3,000 fans.
The Red Wings’ lineup was highlighted by Joey Kocur and John Ogrodnick, though Steve Guolla led them on the scoresheet with two goals. Scoring for the Komets Legends were David Hukalo, who had two goals, Steve Salvucci, Derek Gauthier and Derek Ray.
The Red Wings scored the final five goals in the game, which raises money for their charitable efforts, and they outshot the Komets 28-14.