FORT WAYNE – If the Komets dont win the Turner Conference – and they trail Evansville by a point with five games remaining – they will point to Friday as perhaps the game that cost them home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Komets squandered a two-goal lead against the Laredo Bucks, losing 4-3 in front of 6,841 fans at Memorial Coliseum. They failed to score on 10 shots from point-blank range in the third period and overtime. Their power play was 0 for 4.
The winning goal by defenseman Adam Rivet came on a weak shot from the right circle with captain Colin Chaulk in the penalty box for holding.
The only way I know how to fix the problem is to get the guys together and play together as a team. Get the hard hat on and be a plumber, said Chaulk, whose team can clinch a playoff spot by getting a point tonight against Laredo at the Coliseum.
About the only good news for Fort Wayne, other than getting a point, was that newly acquired forward Mike Vaskivuo looked good. He assisted on a Chaulk goal five seconds into his first shift. And after forward Jesse Bennefield made it 2-0 and Laredos Kyle Mariani answered, Vaskivuo assisted on center Chris Augers goal into an open net 19:33 into the first period.
Vaskivuo took the spot of forward Artem Podshendyalov, who quit the team Thursday to return to his native Russia.
But after the first period, things soured for the Komets (36-18-7).
Defenseman Dustin Molle, who had missed the previous 30 games with a groin injury, didnt play after the first period and coach Al Sims now expects him out for the season.
Despite getting outshot 22-12 in the second and third periods, combined, the Bucks (25-33-3) forced overtime with goals from forward Erik Boisvert.
Meanwhile, the Komets had a slew of chances, most notably a Leo Thomas breakaway that was foiled by goaltender Torrie Jung, who stopped 37 of 40 shots.
Fort Waynes Nick Boucher stopped 19 of 23.
Its disappointing to, again, have a lead and let it slip away, Sims said. It just seems like we dont have the ability to finish around the net and were finding ways to lose instead of finding ways to win. And tonight, it was taking a penalty in overtime that cost us.
The Komets are 6-2-4 in their last 12 games, but theyre 0-0-4 in their last four home games. They coughed up two-goal leads in three of those games, allowing Evansville to stay in first place despite its recent 2-6-0 record, which included a 6-3 loss at Rapid City, S.D., on Friday.
Four of the Komets final five games are at home, where they are 16-7-6.
Chaulk said they need to finish their scoring chances.
It was 40 to 23 in shots? Its like blaming the officiating. Dont put yourself in that position where you are blaming the officiating, Chaulk said. When you have an opportunity, youve got to bury it. We should have put that team away. Our power play was not acceptable tonight.