Twice, the Komets had the lead in front of 10,067 raucous Memorial Coliseum fans Saturday night.
Yet they departed the ice with a 5-3 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings, following a wild third period in which they looked bad, then terrific, then wretched again in the franchise's 67th home opener.
“It was very good defensive hockey most of the weekend for us and, all of a sudden, we just made some bad decisions in the third period. Guys have to know how to play with the lead. We've been in some tight games,” said coach Gary Graham, whose Komets (1-3-0) have lost three straight games.
“Sometimes, you can want it so bad when you're playing in front of a big crowd like that and you're trying to make plays and go forward. And they're coming at you and give up stupid odd-man rushes. If we would have just played a simple third period like we had been the whole game, we would have been fine.”
The Komets came into the third with a 1-0 lead, thanks to Aidan Muir's first professional goal, courtesy of a Justin Hodgman no-look pass from behind the net. The Komets, who have only eight players back from last season, had sputtered to only six goals in their first three games, including a 2-1 loss in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Friday, and Muir was the first newcomer to net a goal.
The Wings scored twice in the first 37 seconds of the third, with Kyle Bushee wristing the puck in from the left circle and Ben Betker polishing off an odd-man rush.
However, the Komets' furious comeback saw goals from Phelix Martineau and rookie Chase Stewart just 42 seconds apart, with Stewart sending a blistering 40-foot shot into the top of the net at 6:56 for a 3-2 lead.
“I think we maybe got a little too excited after our third goal, when we got up one,” Muir said. “I think we lost track of our game a little bit and a couple of breakdowns led to them scoring. So I think we've got to keep it even keel or stuff like that can happen.”
Things fell apart for the Komets again, starting at the 15-minute mark, when Jimmy Mullin was alone in front of the net to score on a one-timer for the Wings. Justin Taylor then netted the winning goal at 17:39, sending a slap shot from the left circle through the legs of goaltender Zach Fucale, who turned away 21 of 25 shots. Taylor added a late empty netter for the Wings (2-1-0).
“It's disappointing because of the way we lost the game. Anytime you lose a game the way we lost it, with the boneheaded mistakes we made from key players, that's unacceptable,” Graham said. “In this division, with the way it is and how competitive it's going to be, we've got to get a lot better in a hurry.”
Wings goalie Jake Hildebrand stopped 25 of 28 shots.
Notes: Fort Wayne's Taylor Crunk has completed his two-game suspension for a postgame cross-check at Cincinnati. ... Jeff Parkerremained in the game after getting high-sticked by the Komets' Justin Kea in the third period. ... The Komets are 2 for 19 on power plays.