The Toledo Walleye looked rusty and shaky defensively last night after returning from the ECHL all-star break.
Following three days of rest, Toledo fell behind Elmira 4-0 less than 17 minutes into the game. The Jackals went on to hammer the Walleye 7-2.
“Tonight wasn't our night from the get-go,” Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said. “We couldn't get out of the way of ourselves and we certainly couldn't get in the way of them. We want to sweep this under the carpet and come back with refocused energy.”
The Walleye's team plus-minus rating was minus-24. They also were outshot 34-27. It equaled their largest margin of defeat this season.
“We didn't answer the bell tonight,” Vitucci said. “There were lapses everywhere.”
The only good news to come out of the blowout is that the Walleye have another shot at Elmira tonight at 7 p.m. The Walleye (23-14-4) also maintained a tenuous first-place lead in the North Division by one point over both Cincinnati and Kalamazoo.
“Just shake it off,” Vitucci said. “This team has been playing very well and for each other. This is just a little adversity we have to face. It's just one bad night.”
Toledo was without captain Ryan Stokes (call up), veteran Malcolm MacMillan (injury) and center Justin Hodgman (trade).
Walleye forward Scooter Smith scored his first goal at Lucas County Arena where 6,002 saw Toledo's six-game winning streak end.
“We're missing some key guys. But no excuses, we have to play better,” Smith said.
Elmira (19-17-4) did not seem to be affected by the layoff. Tyler Donati had two goals and an assist while Keegan Dansereau had a goal and an assist. Mat Robinson and Yannick Tifu each had four assists.
“The other team had the same break, so you can't use that as a crutch,” Smith said. “We have to come out [tonight] and let those guys know that isn't the way we play. That's not our team.”
With his team down 7-1, Mark Nebus scored a power play goal with 8:34 left. At the next faceoff, Nebus landed several punches in a fight with Brennan Turner.
Goalie Alec Richards (12-4-3) was hung out to dry often, breaking his seven-game winning streak. Richards made 23 saves, gave up seven goals, and was pulled in the third.
Suspect defensive play led to odd man rushes and an early 3-0 Elmira lead. The Jackals scored 4:43 into the contest on a two-on-one breakaway. They then tallied a power play goal less than four minutes later and notched their third on a solo breakaway.
Toledo defenseman Luis Tremblay, who got into two fights, then tried to shake things up by knocking down Matt Lowry in a brief scuffle.
But a turnover deep in the Walleye end led to a 4-0 Elmira lead. Toledo got on the board with 1:49 left in the first when Smith scored on a rebound.
“All of my goals  have come in Cincinnati,” said Smith, who previously played in Toledo for the Storm. “It was nice to finally get one at home and get that monkey off my back.”
Donati then made it 5-1 midway through the game. Elmira added two more goals less than two minutes apart for a 7-1 lead in the third, which led Vitucci to pull Richards.
“Is this to be expected after an almost four-day layoff? Certainly,” Vitucci said. “But they had the same layoff.”
FISH TALES: The Walleye will wear special tuxedo jerseys tonight and they will be auctioned off after the game to benefit the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. …Stokes signed a try-out contract with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL yesterday. He has played in 32 games (6 G, 12 A).
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