The Komets’ offense is explosive, undoubtedly.
If they can just fix some of those problems that dogged them early tonight, namely lackadaisical defense and turnovers, they could be a factor down the stretch.
The Komets rallied from three goals down in the third period to beat the Indy Fuel 5-3 in front of 8,567 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
Anthony Petruzzelli’s swivel for a shot from a tough angle, deep in the left circle, put Fort Wayne up a goal at 13:21. Chaz Reddekopp added an empty netter as Fort Wayne pulled within one point of Indy for third place in the Central Division.
The Komets’ leading scorer, Brady Shaw, was back after missing five games because of a concussion sustained on a hit by Jacksonville’s Dajon Mingo.
Dylan Ferguson, who stopped 27 shots in the Komets’ 3-2 overtime victory over the Kalamazoo Wings, got his second consecutive start after going six weeks without playing a full game because of an undisclosed illness. He made a sliding save on Spencer Watson’s shot from 12 feet out just seconds into the game and finished with 18 stops.
The Fuel took a 1-0 lead on its fifth shot. Bobby MacIntyre scored at the end of a 2-on-0 rush, after Fort Wayne turned the puck over in the offensive zone and its defensemen got caught out of position.
A turnover by Fort Wayne’s Olivier Galipeau, just outside his own zone, set up Indy’s Derian Plouffe for a goal off a redirection at the end of a 3-on-1 rush.
The Komets led 20-9 in shots at the first intermission, but Fuel netminder Dan Bakala (41 saves) had stood tall.
Another turnover along the wall, just outside the blue line, put Watson on the path for a goal from the right circle, and a 3-0 Indy lead, as no defenders put pressure on him at 7:48 into the second period.
The Komets thought they’d scored at 11:16, when Max Gottlieb’s shot from the left circle caromed off the crossbar and bounced, perhaps, inside the goal line. But referee Andrew Bruggeman waved it off and upheld that call after reviewing video replay.
Shortly after, Fort Wayne’s Will Petschenig fought Indy’s Craig Wyszomirski.
Just when it seemed the Komets were headed for their first shutout loss at the Coliseum since Feb. 24, 2013, when Wheeling’s Peter Delmas did it with 44 saves, Galipeau netted a shot from between the circles 7:37 into the third period.
Fort Wayne’s Gottlieb scored 43 seconds later from just inside the blue line. And Gottlieb’s pass set up Shawn Szydlowski for a slapshot from the right circle to tie it at 3 during a power play at 10:32.
Jason Binkley, who had been an alternate captain, left the Komets earlier in the day to finish the season in England with the Nottingham Panthers. He was the second defenseman within a week to bolt for overseas, joining Taylor Doherty.
Binkley had three goals and 17 points in 38 games in his fourth season with the Komets. He’d also played four games with Cleveland of the higher-level American Hockey League, tallying an assist.
“The fact that Jason made his AHL debut this season shows he’s probably playing the best hockey of his career right now and we’re excited to see him in the black and gold of the Panthers as soon as possible,” said Nottingham’s director of hockey, Gui Doucet.
The Komets were also without all-star Shawn St-Amant (upper body) and Brad Morrison (lower body). Kyle Haas and Chase Stewart have one more game left on their six-game ECHL suspensions. Gage Torrel and Patrick Munson were scratched.