The Fort Wayne Komets made just a couple of defensive mistakes Friday night that ended up costing them the game.
While trying to play disciplined defensively, the Komets gave up power-play and short-handed goals to lose 3-1 to the Gwinnett Gladiators, who also scored an empty-net goal.
After Daniel Maggio scored off a Josh Brittain pass with 5:45 left in the second period, the Komets were tied 1-1. They had a chance to take the lead in the final minute of the period but gave up a short-handed breakaway to Gwinnett's Evan Bloodoff to trail going into the third period.
Despite having a power play to start the third period, the Komets failed to score, and then the game turned into a penalty mess. The Komets had to kill off two Gwinnett power plays, which killed their own momentum.
Trying to rally with the extra attacker, Fort Wayne had two scoring chances in the final minute, but Colin Chaulk's shot hit the crossbar and another chance just missed before the empty-net goal.
``I thought we really took it to them and played well in the second and third periods,'' Komets coach Al Sims said by phone interview. ``We just couldn't get that last one in.''
Then there were four fights in the last 30 seconds; referee Don Jablonski handed out 64 penalty minutes to the Komets and 50 to the Gladiators. The Komets finished with 86 minutes in penalties, and Gwinnett scored once on 10 power-play chances. The Gladiators totaled 68 minutes, but the Komets were held scoreless in six power-play chances.
Komets Kaleigh Schrock, Garrett Klotz and Maggio received game misconduct penalties.
After being outshot 17-4 in the first period, the Komets finished the game with a 34-22 shots disadvantage. Kenny Reiter was again brilliant with 31 saves for the Komets.
The empty-net goal helped Gwinnett end a string of 10 straight one-goal decisions. The ECHL-leading Gladiators were 8-2 over that stretch. Both losses were to the Komets, including Wednesday's 4-3 decision at Gwinnett.
``We played two tough games against the top team in the league,'' Sims said. ``They were both hard-fought games, and if we can beat these guys we can certainly beat anybody else in the league.''
The Komets were playing without center Brett Smith, who sat out with a sore groin. He helped Sims behind the bench, and Schrock returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game.
New Komets forwards Klotz, Ryan Lasch and Luca Caputi will return to Fort Wayne with the team. All three were assigned to Fort Wayne from Norfolk of the American Hockey League before Wednesday's game. It's unknown how long the trio will stay with Fort Wayne, which plays three games in Orlando starting Friday.
``It depends what happens in Norfolk, and they play tonight and tomorrow,'' Sims said. ``We'll know Monday or Tuesday what's going on with these three guys.''