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Published: Sunday, 3/20/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Overtime heart-breaker

Walleye bedeviled by Trenton

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Toledo Walleye's fading hopes of making the ECHL playoffs took another blow Saturday night with a 5-4 overtime loss to the last-place team in the Eastern Conference.

The Walleye led Trenton three times, but the Devils seized a one-goal lead late in the second period and held it until the waning moments of regulation. Toledo forward Evan Rankin tied the game at 4 with 3:48 left in regulation on a long slap shot, but Trenton's Matt Lombardi scored the game winner on a tip in with 2:26 left in OT in front of a sellout crowd of 7,438 at the Huntington Center.

Toledo outshot Trenton 48-28. Defenseman Jason Lepine had two goals and Mike Hedden also scored. But the Devils scored two power play goals and goalie Jeff Lerg finished with 44 saves. Toledo's Thomas McCollum had 23 stops.

The desperate Walleye (29-30-6) managed to earn one point against Trenton (24-34-8), but they have not won in their last three games are now six points out of the final playoff spot with seven games left. Toledo hosts Trenton today at 4 p.m.

"We've needed four points the last two nights and not one," Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said. "We were pressing and pressing. We got a great shot from Evan late to get us back in it. We're generating a lot of shots and scoring opportunities, but we had some gaps defensively. We need to get better behind our blue line."

With his team down a goal late in the third period, Rankin had his first shot blocked but he drilled the second by Lerg.

"I fired it and put everything I had into it," Rankin said. "I made sure I got it on net. The guys were getting more desperate at the end. We are fighting for the city."

Trenton had three shots in overtime and Lombardi scored his second of the night by tipping Chris Berenguer's shot past McCollum. Vitucci did not blame McCollum (8-8-2) for the loss.

"There were a couple of breakdowns," Vitucci said. "A couple power play goals and a tip in front of the net. It is what it is."

Every time Toledo took a one-goal lead, Trenton was able to tie it back up in the first and second periods. Hedden scored his team-leading 29th for a 2-1 lead in the second.

"Getting that one point was nice, but we led three times tonight and we blew it and lost the game," he said. "That can't happen, especially if you want to make the playoffs. We have to come out [today] flying. It is an absolute must win. We have to get two points."

Trenton went up for the first time when it scored just 13 seconds into a power play. Lombardi punched in a rebound for a 4-3 Devils' lead with 4:15 left in the second period.

Trenton was 2 of 5 on the power play, while Toledo was 0 of 2. Toledo took two penalties in the third period.

"We had some non-thinking man penalties," Vitucci said. "They were reaction penalties. We weren't very smart."

Lepine got the Walleye going with a long shot from the blue line that eluded Lerg. Lepine, who leads all ECHL defensemen in points, scored his seventh with 9:04 left in the first period. With the game tied at 2 in the second period, Lepine scored his second as he and Tyler Doig exchanged two quick passes before Lepine tapped it in.

Toledo fell six points behind Cincinnati, which occupies the final playoff spot.

"If we care enough about what we want to accomplish for our careers and for our families, you have to pull this out this late in the season," Rankin said. "We are so close."

FISH TALES: Toledo claimed F Maxime Tanguay, who was Toledo's leading scorer last season, off the waiver wire Saturday. Tanguay scored 25 goals to go along with 44 assists in 66 games to help the Walleye qualify for the playoffs last season. Tanguay has six goals and 13 assists in 40 games in stints with Alaska and Utah. He may play Sunday. …Trenton lost 5-0 to Kalamazoo on Friday night and has the fewest points in the conference, but Toledo is now 1-3-2 against them. The Devils also were playing with just 15 skaters with eight scratches Saturday. …Toledo's Andy Bohmbach got into a quick fight with Ryan Hayes midway through the third. Trenton's Taylor Vichorek (6-foot-8) also got into a brief fight with Scott Fletcher (6-3) in the first. The pair fell to the ice as neither landed a blow. … With the game tied at 1, Hedden put Toledo up by one with a goal just 3:08 into the second period as the puck deflected off to him in the slot and he buried it. … McCollum played in his 14th straight game night. …The Walleye are 14-16-3 at home and are now 19-6-3 when scoring the first goal.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-724-6354.



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