Mallards stun sloppy Komets to gain ground One more slow start meant Komets needed another rally.

As much as the Fort Wayne Komets would love to focus on trying to chase down the Toledo Walleye and the ECHL Central Division lead, they might want to peek over their shoulder a bit at the Quad City Mallards.

Since the Mallards changed coaches from Terry Ruskowski to Phil Axtell on Jan. 20, they’ve gone 11-4 and have pulled within five points of the Komets for second place with 20 games remaining. At stake is home-ice advantage in what could be a long first-round playoff series between the teams.

The Mallards made a big statement Wednesday night by winning 3-2 in a shootout to tap the Komets on the shoulder and say, “Hey, remember us?” The Komets had basically forgotten about the Mallards after building a 6-2 lead in the season series, but Wednesday’s loss was a pretty good uppercut to get Fort Wayne’s attention.

The Mallards jumped out 2-0 on goals by Josh MacDonald thanks to horrible Fort Wayne defensive play. Then the Komets started their now seemingly usual rally, with Brett Perlini scoring his fourth goal in three games during the second period, and Kyle Follmer forcing overtime with a goal 8:20 into the third period.

The Komets out-shot the Mallards 38-27, but Quad City goaltender C.J. Motte was amazing.

“They are built around their goaltending,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “He made a couple of saves that were just unbelievable, especially in the beginning of the third period. When he’s hot, they are a better team and that’s the way they were at the beginning of the year when they were one of the better teams in the league and then C.J. got called up and they went down a little bit and had a couple of injuries, too. They are getting back and getting healthy, and they have good goaltending.”

That was especially evident during the shootout, as Motte stopped all five Komets attempts. Pat Nagle was almost as strong, stopping four of five Quad City attempts, which usually would be good enough to win. The Komets have dropped their last two games in shootouts, not scoring in eight attempts.

“Those are two points right now that hopefully don’t end up biting us in the butt,” center Mike Cazzola said. “We have to help Nags out because he played amazing. We can’t go 0 for 5 in the shootout. We have to score in the shootout.”

Though they’ve only had two shootouts so far this season, the Komets practice them at least twice a week in practice.

Another odd trend is this is the fifth time during 10 February games the Komets have rallied from deficits of two goals or greater to earn at least a point, going 6-1-3 so far. That’s not bad, but a better start sometime might be more beneficial and cut the stress level a bit. The Komets are a little worried the comebacks may not be good enough later if they keep going to overtime or shootouts where they are 3-7 this season.

“We’re starting to get to a point here, where when we get into overtime we have to start banking these overtime wins because we’re losing points here and you don’t want them to end up costing you at the end of the year,” Graham said.

The Komets have not played poorly, going 8-2-3 over their last 13 games, but they haven’t been able to gain on Toledo or build a bigger lead on the Mallards. They definitely don’t want their playoff position to come down to the last two games of the season, a home-and-home series with the Mallards.

Those final 20 games are going to go quickly over the final 43 days. <br>

<i> For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog and on Facebook at Blake Sebring. </i><br>

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Faceoff: Komets at Indy, 7:30 p.m. Friday

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