Toledo's Luke Esposito takes a shot during Friday's game against the Tulsa Oilers at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo. The Walleye lost the game, 5-2.
Blade/Kurt Steiss Enlarge
Already decimated by injuries and promotions, things went from bad to worse for the Toledo Walleye on Friday night.
Toledo suffered its second consecutive loss as Tulsa scored four goals on its first 12 shots to pin the Walleye with a 5-2 setback. Dating to a tough loss Wednesday to rival Fort Wayne, the Walleye yielded eight consecutive, unanswered goals.
Toledo (14-6-3) saw its seven-game, home winning streak snapped Wednesday, when the Komets turned a 2-1 deficit late in the third period into a 5-2 comeback win.
Then before a subdued, announced crowd of 5,844 in this game, Toledo surrendered two goals on six shots in the first period to a struggling Tulsa (8-8-6) team. The Oilers, which had lost eight of 10, added two more goals on seven shots in the second to seize a 4-0 cushion.
Toledo defenseman Davis Vandane scored both of his team's goals -— his first two of the season — in the third.
“If we could, we'd want to take those first two periods back,” Vandane said. “We weren't bad. But we weren't playing our best. And in order to win in this league, you have to dig deep. The third-period effort we had tonight, we need to put forth every night. You can't point at one thing. Hockey is a game of momentum and when they scored their first two goals, our mojo kind of dropped.”
VIDEO: Toledo Walleye-Tulsa Oilers
The Oilers are in the middle of a 14-game road trip, and Murray said his team came out with great jump despite a 13-hour bus trip from Oklahoma on the heels of 29-hour bus trip to Idaho.
“It's been a hard go. But we've been playing really well as of late,” Murray said. “We did a lot of little things right. We're slowly proving that we can compete with any team.”
Toledo entered the game facing serious roster depletion. Forwards Zach Nastasiuk, Mike Borkowski, and defenseman Vili Saarijarvi were called up to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. Captain Alden Hirschfeld, and assistant captains A.J. Jenks, and Shane Berschbach are all out with injuries.
“I felt we out-chanced them two to one,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “We had 29 shots on net, and they had 19. It was just puck luck and bounces. They did catch us on some line rushes, and we weren't urgent enough early on. They caught us napping a couple of times. We had a lack of focus at times.”
The Walleye suffered another loss, as forward Charlie O'Connor was helped off the ice in the second favoring his leg. O'Connor went to the training room, but later returned.
Toledo also had two shots hit the post.
The Walleye got on the board on Vandane's tip shot with 10:01 left in regulation.But Tulsa's Charlie Sampair then capitalized on a solo breakaway to put the Oilers up 5-1.
“That was the nail in the coffin,” Tulsa coach Rob Murray said. “Their bench deflated. The game was over there.”
Vandane answered just 11 seconds later with a long shot from the point that made it 5-2 with 7:54 remaining. The 6-foot-4 and 210-pound forward now has eight points in 16 games.
“Our guys put up more of a fight in the third,” Watson said.
He said he expected his players to meet the challenge.
“Guys have to be ready to step into new roles,” he said. “We've had some guys that have sat out games that shouldn't have because of our depth. They are good players. They have a desire to play and be productive.”
Instead, Tulsa scored on its first shot of the game. Joey Sides scored with a perfectly-placed shot over Toledo goalie Pat Nagle's right shoulder to put the Oilers up 1-0 just 4:20 in.
Tulsa then made it 2-0 on a one-timer from the slot by Alexandre Ranger off of a great feed from Sides from behind the Walleye net with 6:07 left in the first.
The Oilers also scored on the first shot of the second as former Walleye player Mike McKee tipped in a shot right in front of Nagle, who had no chance to stop it.
Garrett Ladd then put the Oilers up by four with 6:49 left in the second.
The Walleye had chances to get on the scoreboard with five power plays, but couldn’t capitalize on any of them. They had just five shots with the man advantage.
“We had point-blank chances on the power play, but we missed the net or the goalie made a good play or the puck hopped on us,” Watson said.
Vandane, who hadn't played since Nov. 23, said it's been a tough stretch.
“It's a battle to get into this lineup,” he said. “I was lucky enough to get in tonight and I was happy I put a good foot forward. We didn't get two points, but we'll be ready to go. We took it on the chin tonight. But we'll bounce back.”
Toledo looks to right the ship as the Wheeling Nailers come to town for a 7:15 p.m. faceoff Saturday.
The last time a Toledo team lost back-to-back games at home was in February last season, when they dropped consecutive games to Reading.
Watson said the team hasn't faced adversity at home in a long time.
“It's about sticking together,” Watson said. “We'll work through it together. Our guys will turn the page and get back at it against a good Wheeling team. It's a real big game for us. We have to pull up the bootstraps and outwork a team.”
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