The Toledo Storm could not make lightning strike twice in the same place last night as its third-period rally fell short in a wild ECHL North Division final playoff game against Wheeling.
Toledo opened the scoring but Wheeling came back with three unanswered goals to seize a 3-1 lead heading into the third period. The Storm responded with two goals early in the third to tie it at 3 before Wheeling sealed things with two of its own. The Nailers took a 5-3 victory and tied the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
Toledo started the game with two undisciplined periods where it twice produced a season-low shot total in a period and took nine penalties. The Storm had just seven shots in each of the first two periods and Wheeling scored twice on the power play to take a two-goal lead.
Still Storm right winger Todd Jackson knotted the score at 3 with 12:36 left in the contest. But Wheeling's Luis Tremblay scored with 2:50 left and Bo Cheesman added an empty-netter.
The failed comeback occurred just two days after the Storm rallied with four late goals to steal a 5-4 win in overtime against the Nailers on Monday.
"We haven't learned our lesson," Jackson said. "We can't keep relying on playing a strong third period. We can't keep digging out of holes. We've been harping on it all year long. We've been fortunate to find ways to win. We have to come out and play hard right away."
The series moves to WesBanco Arena in West Virginia for Game 3 tomorrow night at 7:35. The teams will play again in Wheeling Saturday at 12:05 p.m. and Monday back in Toledo at 7:05 p.m., if necessary.
The loss broke a nine-game winning streak, including 15 straight games at the Sports Arena where a small but loud crowd of 1,875 saw Toledo lose for the first time since Feb. 22.
Toledo had just five power-play chances and gave Wheeling 10 last night. The Storm also was outshot for the first time in 37 games as the Nailers finished with a 45-28 advantage.
"We don't lose too often here. We made the same mistakes we made [on Monday]," said goalie Logan Koopmans, who made 40 saves. "We kept taking stupid penalties and shooting ourselves in the foot."
Toledo came in averaging 42 shots per game in the postseason and put 55 against goalie Andy Franck on Monday. Franck made 25 stops last night as his Nailers took a 34-14 edge in shots on goal and 3-1 lead into the third period.
Arpad Mihaly scored twice for Wheeling to make it 2-1 after Storm center Jeff Attard opened the scoring. Toledo pulled back within one goal on Ken Magowan's blistering shot that ripped by Franck 3:17 into the third period.
After Jackson tied it, Wheeling scored twice in the last three minutes.
"We played one of our best games of the season," said Wheeling coach Glenn Patrick. "We had a lot of power plays and that helped us carry the play. We had to get this one."
Vitucci said he was frustrated that his team did not learn from falling behind Monday.
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