The Komets were exhausted, trailing a well-rested team by two goals and running out of time in the third period on the road Sunday. But they found a way to overtake the Indy Fuel – once again – all the same.
Stephen Harper sped into the offensive zone and snapped a shot from the left circle past goaltender Dan Bakala to cap a 5-4 victory in 3-on-3 overtime at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
“The team is on Cloud Nine right now,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “The amount of emotion, knowing what we just accomplished, you could just see it come out of them in the dressing room. Three games in 44 hours in three different cities, we played a rested and a fresh team. And I go back to my statement earlier in the season: 'Good teams find a way to win.'”
The Komets' Anthony Nellis had two goals and two assists. But it looked as if they weren't going to win their third straight game after Indy's Terry Broadhurst made it 4-2 with a power-play goal 8:27 into the third period. The Fuel scored on 3 of 4 power plays and added a short-handed goal.
Even after Fort Wayne's Alan Lyszczarczyk scored by redirecting a Nellis shot at 10:16, and after Matt Murphy forced overtime with a 42-foot floater through a crowd at 19:39, it still seemed the Fuel had victory in its grasp with Ryan Zuhlsdorf shooting at an open net in overtime. But the puck caromed off the post and sat underneath goalie Robbie Beydoun before popping out.
“For sure, that win was huge for our confidence,” said Harper, whose Komets defeated Wheeling 3-1 on Friday and 6-2 on the road Saturday. “We really wanted to finish off the weekend. We hadn't won three in a row in a weekend (since early March). Obviously, the boys were a bit tired there after getting in late, but we had the belief that we could do it, and wins like that are huge for our group.”
League-leading Fort Wayne (23-9-4) improved to 10-3-1 against Indy (28-19-5). The Komets are 4-8-1 when trailing at the second intermission and three times have beaten the Fuel after trailing with less than 1:30 remaining in regulation time.
Boudreau praised the entire team, including veteran Shawn Szydlowski, whose hooking penalty set up a Jared Thomas goal and whose turnover had led to a Broadhurst short-handed goal for a 3-1 Fuel lead. Szydlowski set up Murphy's tying goal and had a key backcheck to prevent a goal in overtime.
“And then you had your young legs like (Harper) finding a way to get it going. He was double-shifting all game and playing through pain,” Boudreau said. “I thought everybody had a big impact tonight. And I thought our defense was great, taking away the rush opportunities.”
Beydoun stopped 24 shots, after he'd played Saturday for the American Hockey League's Iowa Wild. Bakala stopped 27 for the Fuel, which came in with five days of rest.
Note: Former Komets player and coach Ron Ullyot, who was hit by a car while riding a bicycle last month in Florida, continues to recover at home.