A five-minute scoring outburst by the Walleye Saturday night brought an end to weeks of frustration and a much-needed confidence boost for a Toledo team that has been searching for answers.
The Walleye won their second consecutive game as they rallied to knock off Evansville 5-2.
Down by one goal midway through the third period, Toledo scored three unanswered goals in a span of 5:02 to complete the comeback.
“What a great third period by everybody,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “Our fans deserved this. These two emotional wins, especially this one tonight the way we came back … should give us huge momentum. We've been looking for something to go our way and hopefully now it's swinging in our direction.”
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The Walleye (7-11-3) had snapped a six-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over Evansville (12-6-3) on Friday on the strength of three first-period goals. But Toledo trailed 2-1 and the IceMen were awarded three penalties in the third period.
Yet the Walleye tied it up on Marek Tvrdon's slap shot after a mad scramble in front of the Evansville net. David Gilbert got the assist on the goal that tied it at 2 with 10:03 left.
The Walleye took a 3-2 lead on Gilbert's goal with 7:26 remaining. Gilbert showed great patience and skill to get Evansville goalie Garrett Bartus out of position on the game winner.
“We've been struggling with open net chances,” Gilbert said. “But we stayed positive and kept working hard. To get three quick goals like that is huge for us because we've been struggling. We know we have a lot of talent and we knew one day it would end up in the back of the net.”
Tvrdon scored again on a long backhander with 5:01 left.
“We just started shooting pucks from everywhere and they went in tonight,” Tvrdon said.
Alden Hirschfeld added an empty net goal with 19 seconds left to cap it.
Walleye goalie Hannu Toivonen, who made his third straight start, finished with 32 saves to get his second consecutive win.
Martin Frk scored a first-period goal to tie the game at 1 before an announced crowd at 5,317 the Huntington Center.
Evansville struck first on Matt Schepke's goal with 6:41 left in the first period. Schepke was able to skate in on Toivonen off an assist from Nathan Moon.
The Walleye evened the score at 1 on Frk's fifth goal on a nice assist from Trevor Parkes with 2:38 left in first. Parkes earned his team-high 11th assists with a pass up ice to set Frk up right in front of Evansville goalie Bartus (31 saves).
Toledo was 0 of 3 on the power play. Evansville finished 0 of 6. The IceMen had a 5 on 3 advantage for 39 seconds while leading 2-1 with 15:36 left.
“Getting out of those penalties was a lift in itself,” Vitucci said. “We know we have offense in this locker room. We certainly did that in this game.”
Evansville scored with 15.1 seconds left in the second period to take a 2-1 lead. Former Walleye Matt Krug tipped a shot past a screened Toivonen. The goal came just as a Toledo penalty expired.
Gilbert was set up perfectly but his one timer went right into chest of Bartus with 11:02 to go. Gilbert finished with a goal and two assists.
“We were unlucky before,” he said. “We were working hard around the net but just missing chances.”
The teams meet again — the fifth time in Toledo's last six games — on Wednesday in Evansville.
“We're not going to sugar coat it, we've been junk for a lot of this season,” Vitucci said. “Confidence is so huge. Guys have stepped up. We're looking for that. It's nice we are getting it from a lot of different people because it makes everyone feel good that they're contributing to it.”