The Walleye gave up two goals in each period Saturday night and could not dig out of a three-goal deficit against the top team in the ECHL's Eastern Conference.
Kalamazoo took a 3-0 lead and cruised to a 6-4 win before a capacity crowd of 7,761 at the Huntington Center. The Wings opened the scoring just 20 seconds into the game and never looked back.
Defenseman Joe Gleason, forward David Gilbert, defenseman Richard Nedomlel, and rookie Ken Peroff scored for Toledo. Goaltender Hannu Toivonen finished with 34 saves.
It was the second straight night that Kalamazoo (37-18-5), which also is in first place in the ECHL North Division, defeated the last-place Walleye (18-36-4).
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the game.
Kalamazoo scored moments after the opening faceoff as Chris Lawrence tallied an unassisted goal.
Just as a Wings' power play expired, Yannick Veilleux gave Kalamazoo a 2-0 lead on a long shot from the point. Toivonen appeared to be screened on the shot with 7:40 left in the first.
“We were too excited and too energized,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “Guys feed off the energy of 8,000 fans. We have to keep our emotions in check, especially early, and let the game come to us.”
Kalamazoo seized a 3-0 lead on a hard shot from Jeremie Blain 2:10 into the second period.
Watson said his team's energy-level was inconsistent.
“It was streaky,” he said. “We let them dominate us for awhile and then we'd play down in their end. We need to be more consistent. We have to get some puck luck too.”
Toledo scored four seconds into a power play as Gleason blasted a shot by Wings goalie Joel Martin (33 saves) to make it 3-1 early in the second.
“It's always tough to go down [2-0] that quick,” Gleason said. “That is on us. [On Friday] we played a lot better overall. We played simpler and harder and that is the way we need to play down the stretch.”
Kalamazoo then went up 4-1 on Justin Taylor's goal with eight minutes left in the middle period.
Toledo scored another power-play goal to pull back within two goals. Gilbert scored his team-leading 15th on a tip right in front of the Wings' net. It took Toledo just nine seconds into the power play to make it 4-2 with 4:51 left in second period.
“There is no quit,” Watson said. “That has been the message here. If you look at your record there are reasons to quit. But guys are fighting for a job. So there is no reason to quit.”
But Matt Caria and Lawrence scored early in the third to give Kalamazoo a 6-2 cushion.
Nedomlel scored his eighth goal of the year with 7:51 left. Peroff, who was playing in his fourth game, then scored his first pro goal a little more than two minutes later.
“It was a big goal for the team to try to get back into the game late,” Peroff said. “It's too bad it didn't ignite something. It was my first point. It felt great. This is my first shot at professional hockey. It's tough. You are battling hard and you are playing for a job next year.”
The Walleye have lost 10 games in a row at the Huntington Center. Toledo has not won a home game since Jan. 26 and is now 9-19-0 on home ice.
“We have compete in this locker room,” Gleason said. “We just need to figure out how to do it for 60 minutes. That has been our M.O. all year.”
The Walleye play their third game in as many days when they host Fort Wayne today.
FISH TALES: The Walleye players wore special green jerseys that were auctioned off following the game with proceeds benefiting the Toledo Fire and Rescue Foundation.
The organization honored James Dickman and Stephen Machcinski during a pre-game ceremony. The two Toledo firefighters died in the line of duty on Jan. 26. It was an emotional moment when players from both teams shook hands with members of the Dickman family. Greg Dickman, father of James Dickman, dropped the ceremonial first puck.
“It was very emotional and touching to have the family here,” Gleason said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to that family. It was a nice gesture for Kalamazoo to shake hands as well.”