Katie Rausch | The Toledo Blade Fort Wayne's Ryan Lowney, center, is cheered by his team after scoring against Toledo in the first period Saturday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.
Katie Rausch | The Toledo Blade Fort Wayne's Mason Baptista takes control of the puck from Toledo in the first period Saturday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.
Katie Rausch | The Toledo Blade Fort Wayne's Michael Houser rebuffs a shot on goal by Toledo in the first period Saturday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.
Saturday, April 28, 2018 10:50 pm
Komets steal Game 1 in Toledo
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
TOLEDO – Dennis Kravchenko picked a terrific time to get going. He came into tonight without a playoff goal, but his back-to-back goals propelled the Komets to a 5-3 victory over the Toledo Walleye to start the best-of-7 Central Division finals.
The Komets knew they’d have to steal at least one game here. To do it in the opener, against a team that had won the regular-season division title and swept the Indy Fuel in the first round, made it all the better.
But it didn’t come easy; even though the Komets outshot the Walleye 36-15, they had to overcome a two-goal deficit.
A crowd of 8,000 attended the game at the Huntington Center, including approximately 800 fans who made the trip from Fort Wayne.
Game 2 will be 5:15 p.m Sunday at the Huntington Center before the series moves back to Fort Wayne.
The time off after their five-game first-round victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones, which concluded with a 4-2 victory Sunday, allowed the Komets to get healthier. Back on the ice tonight were defensemen Ryan Culkin and forwards Daniel Maggio and Marco Roy, putting into the stands Kevin McKernan, Anthony Petruzzelli and Justin MacDonald.
Despite peppering their former goaltender, Pat Nagle, with a multitude of early shots, the Komets fell behind 1-0 on A.J. Jenks’ power-play goal at 6:08 of the first period, when he redirected a blue-line shot from another former Fort Wayne player, Simon Denis.
The Komets executed a similar play to tie it at nine minutes when Marco Roy’s shot from 40 feet out caromed off the elbow of Ryan Lowney and into the net.
Despite Fort Wayne tallying 21 of the first period’s 26 shots on goal, the Walleye went up 2-1 on another Jenks redirection of a Denis shot, again during a power play.
With only six shots on goal, the Walleye gained a 3-1 lead because Patrick McCarron slipped a 40-foot shot past goalie Michael Houser.
But then the Komets’ offense erupted with two goals in the span of 1:54 as league MVP Shawn Szydlowski netted a shot from the right circle and set up Garrett Thompson for a shot from the other circle to tie it at 3.
A 2-on-1 rush for the Komets saw Gabriel Desjardins send a centering pass from the right boards to Kravchenko, who faked Nagle to the ice and made it 4-3 at 15 minutes .
Kravchenko scores 9:36 into the third by attacking the net and redirecting a Thompson shot into the top of the net for a 5-3 lead.
Notes: The referees were Tyler Puddifant and Stephen Thomson. ... The Komets also played without Justin Hodgman. Zac Larraza and Trevor Cheek remained with Tucson of the higher-level American Hockey League. .... During the regular season, Fort Wayne won 6 of 8 games between the teams.