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  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Fort Wayne and Toledo players scrum near the goal in the second period Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum. The Komets lost and trail the best-of-7 Central Division finals series 3-0.

  • 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' 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 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 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 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 Toledo's Shane Berschbach brings the puck down the ice in the second period of Wednesday's game against the Komets 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' 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 Toledo's Landon Oslanski bloks a shot on goal by Komets' Mike Cazzola in the second period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Matthew Caito, of Toledo, takes a shot on goal with Komets' Garrett Thompson reaching out to block the shot in the second 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 Toledo's Alden Hirschfeld keeps ahead of Komets' Garrett Thompson as he brings the puck down the ice in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Toledo's Nolan Zajac looks for a shot on goal in the second period of Wednesday's game against the Komets 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 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 Toledo's A.J. Jenks takes control of the puck in the second period of Wednesday's game against the Komets at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Dane Walters, of Toledo, looks for an open player to pass to in the second period of Wednesday's game against the Komets at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • 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)

Thursday, May 04, 2017 1:00 am

ECHL Playoffs: Toledo 3, Komets 2

Komets clinging to life

Clutch play in goal helps Toledo come back to win 3rd straight

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Schedule

Central Division finals

Best-of-7

Toledo leads 3-0

Game 1: Toledo 2, Komets 1

Game 2: Toledo 4, Komets 3 (OT)

Game 3: Toledo 3, Komets 2

Game 4: 8 p.m. Friday, at Memorial Coliseum

Game 5: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at Toledo*

Game 6: 7:30 p.m. Monday, at Coliseum*

Game 7: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, at Toledo*

*If necessary

The Komets avoided the bad penalties Wednesday. Twice, they took the lead, something they never had on the road. And they got the bulk of the good scoring chances.

So how are they now in this position, one game away from elimination?

“Listen, here's the difference: They get a 2-on-1 rush, they bury it 10 out of 10 times. We get a 2-on-1 and we don't even shoot the puck. We don't even get the shot off. We get a breakaway and we don't even hit the net, and that's the difference,” said Komets coach Gary Graham, after his team lost 3-2 to the Toledo Walleye in front of 5,713 fans at Memorial Coliseum. “And their goalie made some tremendous saves. He is the (other) difference right now and you're not going to tell me otherwise.”

Jeff Lerg stopped 33 shots – bringing his save percentage in the series to .941 – and that included five saves on shots from within 10 feet as Fort Wayne had a power play for the last 2:41.

“We're just not bearing down on our chances like they did,” Fort Wayne's Trevor Cheek said. “We played a pretty strong game again and could have come out with the win.”

Game 4 of the best-of-7 Central Division finals will be 8 p.m. Friday at the Coliseum. A Toledo victory would send it to the Western Conference finals against Colorado or defending-champion Allen.

Despite believing they had outplayed Toledo at the Huntington Center – the Walleye won 2-1 on Friday and 4-3 in overtime Saturday – Graham made some gutsy lineup changes. He opted to start goaltender Garrett Bartus, who had sat eight straight games since April 7, even though Pat Nagle's playoff record was 4-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .906 SP. Graham also played seven defensemen, instead of the usual six, inserting Kyle Follmer and Bobby Shea, who had sat out 12 games with a groin injury.

But A.J. Jenks netted the winning goal 16:55 into the third period with a 35-foot middle-of-the-ice shot.

“I've got to make a save there. One of their best guys has the puck and I've got to make a save, find a way,” said Bartus, who stopped 32 shots.

None of Bartus' teammates put the blame on the goaltending.

“He played a good game, made some big saves for us. That's not on Bartus at all. That's on us. We've got to make sure we take care of our chances like they have,” said Cheek, whose Komets hadn't lost three consecutive games since early January.

It was a goaltending show in the first period, as Toledo had 13 of the 22 shots, including Kyle Bonis and Shane Bershbach attempts from 8 feet that were thwarted by Bartus. Lerg stopped 15-foot shots by Mike Cazzola, Garrett Thompson and Shawn Szydlowski, and got help from defenseman Zach Nastasiuk, who swept a Curtis Leonard shot off the goal line.

Leonard atoned when his shot from 45 feet was redirected by Thompson for a 1-0 lead 29 seconds into the second period, though a Cody Sol turnover helped set up Jenks for the tying goal at 9:14. 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 Rankin finished off a 2-on-1 rush 4:11 into the third period.

“We knew it was going to be a fight,” said Bartus, whose Komets have lost 8 of 9 games to Toledo this season. “They're showing why they're one of the best teams, by finding a way. We outplayed them a few games there, but when they get their opportunities they're making the most of them, making us pay for it.”

jcohn@jg.net