The loudest cheers of the season didn't come during the first-period onslaught, when the line of Anthony Nellis, Alan Lyszczarczyk and Shawn Szydlowski combined for three goals and six assists as Fort Wayne built a three-goal lead. The deafening noise was as the Komets' penalty kill fought to close the game, limiting the Allen Americans to only one shot over the final 1 minute, 41 seconds, and Fort Wayne held on for a 4-3 victory in front of a season-high 3,919 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
The Komets now have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Western Conference Finals, over the top-seeded team, and could advance to the Kelly Cup Finals with a victory at 7:30 p.m. today at the Coliseum.
“That was huge. Our penalty kill has been good all year,” said Nellis, who finished with two goals and four points. “Whoever is on the ice is committed to doing the right play. One goal in mind is to kill the penalties. Another goal is to sacrifice, be willing to block shots and be willing to dump the puck 200 feet and skate it hard. This penalty kill is unreal. It's fun to be on.”
Allen's power play was 1 for 4 Monday and is 2 for 17 in the series. Fort Wayne scored on its only opportunity, getting a Justin Vaive redirection of a Stephen Harper shot to tie it 4:24 into the first period, after Les Lancaster had given Allen a 1-0 lead. Fort Wayne's power play has scored on back-to-back opportunities, including a Brandon Hawkins goal in the third period of Saturday's 5-4 overtime victory, and is 2 for 11 in the series.
Nellis gave Fort Wayne a 2-1 lead at 12:26 with a 25-foot shot, after Lyszczarczyk spun and sent a centering pass, and Nellis put in the rebound of a Lyszczarczyk shot for a 3-1 lead at 14:10.
On Fort Wayne's next shot, its 10th of the game, Lyszczarczyk buried a slap shot into a wide-open net as he fell to his knees, thanks to a Szydlowski crossing pass, for a 4-1 lead at 18:19.
“Our line is feeling good,” Nellis said. “I thought we played a good game in Allen on Saturday night. Obviously, I'm not used to playing with Shawn and Laser, so it was sort of an adjustment. They're guys who can move the puck well, and I fit well with those guys, through my speed and seeing the space, taking good shots. Tonight, I think it was just a result of all three guys feeling good today.”
Allen's Tyler Sheehy trimmed the deficit to 4-2 at 11:35 of the second period, after intercepting a Hawkins pass in the Fort Wayne zone, and Lancaster scored on a power play 2:43 into the third period on a 40-foot snap shot.
Dylan Ferguson stopped 26 shots for the Komets, seeded third in the conference. Allen's C.J. Motte stopped 20.
“(The Americans) played 40 really good minutes of aggressive hockey and there was a lot of good quality scoring chances, but Fergie was there when we needed him,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “We didn't press the way we really wanted the last half of the game, but we got away with the result.”
After the final buzzer, Allen's Spencer Asuchak punched Fort Wayne's A.J. Jenks to set off a fracas that saw Ferguson deck Asuchak.
The South Carolina Stingrays await the winner of this series.
Komets vs. Allen
Western Conference Finals
Komets lead 2-1
Game 1: Allen 5, Komets 2
Game 2: Komets 5, Allen 4, OT
Game 3: Komets 4, Allen 3
Game 4: 7:30 p.m. Today at Memorial Coliseum
Game 5: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Coliseum*