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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Toledo's Beau Schmitz lays down his stick to block the shot on goal by Komets' Trevor Cheek in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mike Embach, of the Komets, lines up a shot on Toledo's goal in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Shawn Szydlowski takes a shot on goal in the first period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Trevor Cheek takes a shot on goal with Toledo's Evan Rankin attempting to block him from behind in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' goalie Garrett Bartus keeps an eye on the play in the second period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Dan Milan turns to keep ahead of the play in the second period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Cody Sol trades words with Toledo's Dane Walters in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Will Weber races to the puck in the second period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mike Cazzola, of the Komets, keeps the puck ahead of Toledo's Alden Hirschfeld in the second period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' Bobby Shea brings the puck around the ice with Toledo's Dane Walters sticking close in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets teammates congratulate Gabriel Desjardins after he scored a goal in the second period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Toledo's goalie Jeff Lerg blocks a shot on goal in the second period of Wednesday's game against the Komets.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette A pile up at Toledo's goal in the second period of Wednesday's game against the Komets at the Memorial Coliseum.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017 10:30 pm

Toledo comes back, takes commanding lead on K's

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Komets did what they had to, staying out of the penalty box for the most part and getting a lead – twice.

But it wasn’t enough.

The Toledo Walleye rallied in the third period tonight with goals from Evan Rankin and A.J. Jenks and won 3-2 at Memorial Coliseum to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 Central Division finals.

Both teams had 35 shots on goal.

It was a night the Komets believed their ECHL-best home record and a gamble by coach Gary Graham, who started goaltender Garrett Bartus, would propel them back into the series. But regular-season champion Toledo pounced on the Komets’ few mistakes to win yet another one-goal game.

The Walleye won the opening games at the Huntington Center, 2-1 on Friday and 4-3 in overtime on Saturday.

Game 4 will be 8 p.m. Friday at the Coliseum.

Pat Nagle had played the previous eight games – he was 4-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in the playoffs – and Bartus’ previous action had come April 7.

The decision to go with the backup goalie had shades of a move made by Graham’s mentor, Al Sims, who in the 2010 International Hockey League finals surprisingly played Tim Haun instead of Nick Boucher following an overtime loss and it worked out.

The other big move Graham made tonight was to play with seven, instead of six, defensemen by putting Bobby Shea and Kyle Follmer into the lineup while sitting Ryan Lowney. Shea had missed the previous 12 games with a groin injury.

The first period saw Toledo outshoot Fort Wayne 13-9 and the goaltenders ruled the show. Bartus stopped Kyle Bonis and Shane Berschbach from point-blank range, while Toledo’s Jeff Lerg foiled Mike Cazzola, Garrett Thompson and Shawn Szydlowski from within 15 feet.

Both teams thought they had first-period goals, too, but it didn’t turn out that way. A Toledo goal was waved off at 18:09 because the referees, Kenny Anderson and Sean Fernandez, determined Rankin was in the crease when the puck ricocheted off his leg and the net was dislodged before it went in anyway. And a shot from the blue line by Fort Wayne’s Curtis Leonard got past Lerg at 19:50, but defenseman Zach Nastasiuk swept it off the goal line to keep it scoreless.

The Komets got their first lead of the series 29 seconds into the second period, when a 3-on-2 rush saw Travis Ewanyk drop a pass to Curtis Leonard for a 45-foot shot that was redirected in by Thompson, who entered the night with 20 regular-season goals but none in the playoffs.

Jenks tied it at 9:14 after he was set up by Nastasiuk, who had intercepted a Cody Sol clearing pass along the boards.

With Sol in the penalty box for interference, Fort Wayne’s Gabriel Desjardins netted a short-handed goal at 16:40 by beating Landon Oslanski in a race for the puck, cutting in from the right boards and flicking a shot above Lerg.

But Toledo tied it again with Rankin polishing off a 2-on-1 rush at 4:11. And Jenks made it 3-2 at 16:55 when he was all alone in the high slot to snap it past Bartus.

Despite two late power plays, including brief time with a 5-on-3, the Komets couldn’t capitalize despite getting five shots in the final minute on Lerg.

Notes: Signs throughout the Coliseum reiterated that cowbells and air horns were not allowed; cowbells are a big thing for Toledo’s fans at the Huntington Center. … Toledo’s Tylor Spink, who had one assist in the opening two games, had the flu and was replaced in the lineup by Alex Globke. … Fort Wayne played without Mason Baptista, Lowney and Taylor Crunk.

jcohn@jg.net