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  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' J.C. Campagna looks for a shot on goal in the first period of Wednesday's game with Toledo's Ben Danford trying to block the shot.

  • A ref breaks up a scuffle between Komets’ Kyle Hope and Toledo’s Brenden Kotyk in the first period of Wednesday’s game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Justin Hodgman looks for a clear shot in the first period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Cam Knights works to keep control of the puck away from Toledo's Matt Register in the first period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' J.C. Campagna works to keep the puck away from Toledo's Shane Berschbach in the first period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Marco Roy reaches to keep control of the puck away from Toledo's Matt Register in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Toledo's Ryan Obuchowski takes a shot on goal in the second period of Wednesday's game around the Komets' Ryan Lowney.

Thursday, April 18, 2019 12:10 am

Analyzing Komets' epic Game 3 victory

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Komets’ 2-1 victory over the Toledo Walleye in overtime leaves us much to cover.

Let’s start with the guy who scored the game-winning goal, Kevin Gibson. He had only two goals in the regular season. He played last season for the Walleye. He knows a little something about big-time plays, since his father is Kirk Gibson. He had never before scored a playoff goal in the professional ranks. And he’d had only one overtime goal – in his first college game in 2011 for Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“It felt great. I can’t even explain how good that felt,” Gibson said after his goal from 50 feet out at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night. “This group deserves it and hopefully we can carry this momentum into Friday, play smart hockey and keep this playoff run going here.”

(Updated video highlights are above.)

The Komets trail the best-of-7 Central Division semifinals 2-1 with Game 4 on Friday at 8 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.

“It was exciting to watch the guys celebrate Gibby in there,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “(Jamie Schaafsma) stood up and said, ‘This is a guy who does it all the right way. He never complains. He’s always out there working hard.’ To see a guy like that get rewarded is always special.”

Zach Fucale played his finest game as the Komets’ goaltender, stopping 41 shots. Pat Nagle also stopped 41 for the Walleye and carried a shutout string of 121:04 into the waning seconds, when Shawn Szydlowski put a shot into an open side of the net after a mad scramble for the puck.

“Both goalies played extremely well. (Fucale) had a save on a point-blank shot when they were up 1-nothing and that was just a monster save,” Graham said. “I thought both goalies played tremendously well and that’s just the way this series has gone right now.”

Szydlowski’s tying goal was thanks to the Komets getting a late timeout and a faceoff in the offensive end, something they haven’t gotten as often as they’d like this season, and that enabled them to talk about what they wanted to do. Then, they won a couple draws to precede the goal.

“You look at those situational things and it all about getting the draw and we did that in the big moments,” Graham said.

And the Komets had a lot more traffic tonight in front of Nagle than they’d had in the previous two games.

“It’s been a long year for the team with a lot of ups and downs. For us to come back and score with 22 seconds left like that, it shows the character of this team and that we’re not going away,” Gibson said. “There’s a never-say die attitude with us.”

Coming into this game, we knew the Komets had to get better efforts from their big-time playmakers and they did. Aside from Szydlowski, Justin Hodgman was all over the ice, even saving a goal and doling out a big check; Brady Shaw was closer to the player he was in Game 1; Jake Kamrass and Marco Roy were more involved; and J.C. Campagna helped set up the tying goal and finished with game-best seven shots on goal.

The refereeing was much better than the first two games – kudos to Alex Normandin and Steven Rouillard – but Fort Wayne’s 0 for 6 showing on the power play would have been the storyline if they’d lost. That has to get better. A key would be firing the puck quicker, instead of giving the Walleye’s penalty killers time to set up, especially on the long-range shots.

Also, the Komets simply have to do better on sloppy turnovers. Cody Sol’s giveaway led to Toledo’s Zach Gallant’s goal, but there were many far worse; the Komets may have had more sloppy turnovers than any team I’ve ever seen that actually won the game.

If I were writing the Toledo side of things, I’d be saying that it was huge missed opportunity to get a 3-0 lead because of those turnovers.

But there’s no doubting the hustle was there and Kyle Hope deserves some credit for a huge hit on A.J. Jenks on the first shift. The only problem was it resulted in a power play – Toledo was 0 for 4 – though it got the Komets’ intensity ramped up.

I know Fort Wayne’s fans were in definite panic mode after Game 2 – and certainly with this team you shouldn’t now go the other way and take this for granted – but I keep saying: It’s not really a series until a team loses on home ice.

jcohn@jg.net