TOLEDO, Ohio – The Komets fought their way back three times tonight.
But an old nemesis showed up – the penalty box – and the Komets lost 4-3 to the Toledo Walleye in overtime.
Shawn Szydlowski was in the box for elbowing Dane Walters and Walters made him pay on the ensuing power play with a shot from 20 feet just a minute into extra time.
Toledo has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Central Division finals that now head back to Fort Wayne.
A sellout crowd of 8,000 attended the game at the Huntington Center, where the Walleye won 2-1 Friday night, led by power-play goals from Landon Oslanski and A.J. Jenks.
It was the third overtime game of the playoffs for Fort Wayne, which is 1-2 in such games. It was Toledo’s first.
Game 3 will be 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum, where the Komets had the ECHL’s best home record during the regular season and were 2-0 in the five-game defeat of the Quad City Mallards in the first round. Toledo lost all three of its road games in its seven-game victory over the Kalamazoo Wings.
Video highlights from tonight are above.
It took Toledo only 22 seconds to take the lead tonight – it was the Walleye’s first even-strength goal of the series – with Tyson Spink finishing off a 2-on-1 rush by slipping the puck inside the right goalpost and then going airborne into the corner.
Nagle immediately recovered by thwarting Alden Hirschfeld from point-blank range and finished the period with stops of Beau Schmitz from 15 feet and Walters on a backhand from 10 feet.
Fort Wayne didn’t do much to test goaltender Jeff Lerg, who stopped 24 shots in Toledo’s 2-1 victory in Game 1, until late in the first period when Mike Cazzola and Trevor Cheek were foiled from the bottom of the right circle.
Toledo drew a 2-minute 5-on-3 power play at 19:54, when Szydlowski was called for tripping and Kyle Thomas for slashing Lerg as he skated off the ice for an extra attacker, though the Komets argued that the netminder skated into and interfered with Thomas. On the ensuing power play, Toledo totaled three shots on goal with Pat Nagle’s best save coming against Kyle Bonis. Nagle got some help from Will Weber, who blocked a blast from Landon Oslanski.
The Komets, who had 20 of the first 33 shots on goal, finally solved Lerg 8:40 into the second period, when Gabriel Desjardins netted a shot from the top of the left circle. Fort Wayne’s Cody Sol had broken up a Walleye rush at the other end and then made the initial pass to set up Desjardins, who took advantage of a Cheek screen.
Just when it seemed the Komets had all the momentum, a Szydlowski pass was intercepted by Kyle Bonis, who went the length of the ice on a breakaway and beat Nagle for a 2-1 lead at 19:15. Fort Wayne’s Kyle Thomas answered with a low, 40-foot shot that tied it 3:49 into the third period and he then motioned for the fans to be quiet, as they had been cheering not-so-niceties throughout the game.
Walters’ 30-foot curving shot eluded the glove of Nagle at 13:35, but the Komets forced overtime with 20.6 seconds left in regulation when Sol accepted Thomas’ pass from the corner and slapped it past Lerg to tie it at 3.
Notes: After sitting Game 1, Mason Baptista was back in the lineup for the Komets, who scratched Brett Perlini, Kyle Follmer, Taylor Crunk and Bobby Shea. … The referees were Andy Howard and Chris Pontes.