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Playing their fourth game in five days, a fatigued Walleye team got a boost from veteran goalie Jordan Pearce to snap a two-game losing streak on Sunday.
Pearce, who returned from a call up to Grand Rapids on Saturday, was very strong in net against Fort Wayne. His play was particularly pivotal in the second period when he made 16 of his 32 saves to keep the game tied at 2.
The Walleye erupted for four goals in the third period to take a 6-3 win over the Komets before a crowd of 6,083 at the Huntington Center.
Toledo (29-18-6) wrapped up the busy stretch with a 2-0-2 record.
Pearce (13-7-2), who had not played since Jan. 27, said he was shaking off the rust in Saturday's game as he played well in a 4-3 overtime loss to Kalamazoo.
“There are great guys in this locker room. There's a lot of character,” Pearce said. “I'm happy to be a contributing member of this team. I love being down here. It's a long season and it's winding down now and we need every point we can get.”
Nino Musitelli put Toledo up 3-2 with 16:51 left in the game.
Musitelli earned the No. 1 star of the contest, finishing with a goal and two assists.
“This stretch was crucial,” Musitelli said. “We came out with big points this week. Four games in five nights is tough but it is our job as a team to come together.”
Veteran Randy Rowe showed great patience and scored at the side of the net to give the Walleye a two-goal cushion with 10:05 remaining. It proved to be the game winner as Toledo scored on consecutive shots to go up 4-2.
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Toledo's Byron Froese added another goal with 8:27 left before Fort Wayne's Matt Syroczynski scored.
Walleye captain Kyle Rogers added an empty net goal with 1:10 left.
The teams combined for four goals over a span of 6:14 in the first period. Toledo took the initial lead 3:17 into the game on defenseman Cody Lampl's goal.
The Komets scored twice in 20 seconds to take a 2-1 lead.
Toledo tied it on Stephon Thorne's goal near the midpoint of the opening period. Thorne, who played for Fort Wayne before being claimed off of waivers on Jan. 2, had a goal and an assist. He has nine points, — with five goals — in 20 games with Toledo.
Thorne said he felt like he had an extra jump in his step playing against his former teammates.
“It put a smile on my face,” Thorne said. “They're all my friends. It made me want to beat them as much as they wanted to beat me. The competitive level was there.”
Thorne said Pearce was “unbelievable.”
“If he wasn't in net, it would have been a different outcome,” Thorne said.
Pearce came up with a snap glove save to keep it tied at 2 with 12:48 left in second period. Moments later he had another solid stop as he made 30 saves over the first two periods.
“We were tired and guys are sick in that locker room,” coach Nick Vitucci said. “I'm proud of them. We needed different people to step up at different times for us. Jordan Pearce stepped up for us and gave us a chance to win.
"He allowed us to get our talents and skills going in the third period.”
Musitelli scored the key goal 3:09 into the third period on assists from Thorne and Pat Knowlton.
The Walleye went 0 of 2 on the power play and they are on a 0-for-18 streak with the man advantage that covers a stretch of seven games.
Vitucci said he will give his players the next two days off and that the team will “try to get the power play in order on Wednesday.”
FISH TALES: D Wes O'Neill, who had an assist, was plus-one. Every player had a positive plus-minus rating except Phil Rauch. … Toledo is now 9-0-1 when outshot by opponents. … The Walleye were issued only one penalty. They came in as the ECHL's third-least penalized team with 14.13 penalty minutes per game. … Toledo is 6-2-0 against the Komets this season. Fort Wayne (26-26-2) has dropped five in a row.