After overcoming two deficits and some early jitters, the Toledo Storm reverted to its style of suffocating hockey to dominate Johnstown in the opening of the Kelly Cup playoffs last night.
Toledo allowed just nine shots in the final 40 minutes, and the Storm rallied with two unanswered goals to drop Johnstown 3-2. A crowd of 2,066 at the Sports Arena saw the Storm take a 1-0 lead in the ECHL North Division semifinal series.
After falling behind 1-0 and 2-1, Toledo dominated the rest of the contest from early in the second period until the final horn. The Storm held the Chiefs to just five shots in the second period and four in the third.
Toledo scored twice with a two-man advantage, and captain Jason Maleyko tallied the game-winner and assisted on the other two goals.
It wasn t so much that we shut them down, we just kept the puck in their end and kept pressure on them, Maleyko said. It seemed like 18 of the 20 minutes in the third period, we were in their end.
Toledo matched its season record for least shots allowed in a game with 16. The Storm also held the Chiefs to 16 total shots in a game here on Feb. 24.
We re not too fancy, said left winger Matt Zultek, who scored Toledo s first goal. When we stick to that, we can shut other teams down, especially in this rink. We just need to keep playing our game.
Goalie Morgan Cey single-handedly kept the Chiefs in it, making 43 saves. Toledo goaltender Drew MacIntyre won his ninth in a row, finishing with 14 stops.
The last two periods were fun to watch, MacIntyre said. When we work hard like that, we can be a very good team. We played awesome in the second and third periods.
The Chiefs struck first with a power play goal just 2:52 into the contest. Dmitri Tarabrin, who has been a thorn in Toledo s side all season with 12 points in 10 games, made it 1-0 with a rebound goal.
We ve been so wound up this week. I think there were some nerves, MacIntyre said. We were a little jittery, but we put it behind us.
Zultek evened the game with his team on a 5-on-3 advantage. Maleyko took a shot from the point, and Zultek one-timed the rebound past Cey, tying it at 1 late in the first.
Brett Peterson s unassisted goal put Johnstown up 2-1 two minutes into the second period. But Storm center Scooter Smith tied it again with a power play tally less than two minutes later. Chris Blight sent a perfect pass to Smith, who was parked at the side of the net, and he drilled it past Cey.
Special teams are so important in the playoffs, Smith said. Our power play and penalty kill were huge. We just keep it simple. We get pucks deep, get it down low, and just go to work.
Maleyko made a nice individual effort to notch the game-winner. Maleyko took a pass from Jeff Attard, kicked it to his stick, skated in and beat Cey with a quick shot. The defenseman s goal came with 2:17 left in the second period. Maleyko had missed the last five games with a shoulder injury
Just to get back out there was great. But getting the game-winner and a couple of points was even better, he said.
The first period was marred with 10 penalties, and referee Dean Sanborn called seven in the second period.
Johnstown came in on a high having knocked off the defending champions [Trenton], said Storm coach Nick Vitucci. We had to kill so many penalties in the first period, and I think we had some jitters.
Toledo has won the last five games at home against Johns-town and limited the Chiefs to zero shots in a period here on Jan. 20.
The first win in the playoffs is always huge, Zultek said.