MOLINE, Ill. — The hardest game to win in any playoff series is always the fourth, and the Fort Wayne Komets are expecting a very difficult challenge tonight.
After winning Game 3 on Kyle Thomas's goal 22 seconds into overtime Wednesday night, the Komets lead the series 3-0. It was the second-fastest overtime goal in Fort Wayne's 65-year history, topped only by Reggie Primeau's marker in 16 seconds to end a game against Dayton on March 31, 1965.
Fort Wayne is 23-0 all-time in playoff series where it leads 3-0, and the Komets have swept 12 times, the last time in the second round against Utah.
The Komets have played well enough to earn a sweep, but the Mallards came back with their best effort of the series in Game 3.
"They'll have a lot of pride and come out with a lot more intensity probably Friday," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "We'll need to raise the bar to try and close this thing out."
The Komets will need to cut down on their turnovers after throwing away 17 during the first period. That allowed Quad City to gain some confidence that carried through the game. It was only because of the outstanding effort from goaltender Pat Nagle that the Komets survived the first period to have a chance to win the game. The Mallards also crashed the net to try getting to Nagle, something they hadn't done much of during the first two games.
"We had a bad start, but we came back right away and that was huge," center Travis Ewanyk said. "We knew it was going to be a big turning point in the series."
The Komets weren't sharp in Game 3, but they were good enough to win an important road game, something they've done in 18 of their last 20 playoff series. A win in any of the next three games will also make the Komets the only ECHL to win at least one playoff round in each of the last four seasons.
"We know we didn't play as sharp as we should have tonight," Graham said. "We had some timely goals, and we were good in spots, but we did not take care of the puck like we should have. There are some different things we have to get better on. We just have to keep trying to improve and keep elevating."
The Mallards have nothing to lose any more. They are playing to keep their season alive and to avoid the embarrassment of losing before their home fans.
"I expect their best game of the series," Thomas said. "We have to go out there like it's still tied."
For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.