A game full of dramatic comebacks fell just short of victory for the Walleye in an entertaining Sunday game.
Toledo rallied from one-goal deficits four times before a crowd of 4,456 at the Huntington Center. But the Walleye wrapped up a six-game homestand with a 5-4 loss to Gwinnett in the contest that went to a shootout.
The Gladiators scored with 7:14 left to take a 4-3 lead. But Toledo's Brett Perlini tied the game at 4 with just 2.8 seconds left in regulation.
“It was a good night for fighting back,” Perlini said. “We didn't quit every time we got down. It would have been nice to get the lead. But to keep fighting back really says a lot about the character in this room.”
But in the shootout, Gwinnett scored twice and Max Shalunov scored the only goal for Toledo.
PHOTO GALLERY: Shootout loss caps Walleye homestand
The Walleye earned three out of four points in two weekend games. Toledo posted a 1-4-1 record over the 10-day span of home games.
Rookie Matt Abercrombie scored two goals and Kyle Rogers had one for the Walleye (19-38-5).
“We worked hard all weekend, especially tonight coming back,” Abercrombie said. “It would have been nice to get one. For sure, we deserved a better fate. Ever since I've been here, we have always fought back. We are a never-give-up team."
Walleye goalie Jared Coreau got his first start since March 5. Coreau (1-11-5) finished with 24 saves.
With his team down by one, Coreau was pulled while Toledo was on a late power play. Perlini scored on a one timer off of a pass from Ryan Flanigan from behind the net.
“It looked like they had us down and out,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “It was nice to see [Perlini] get that big goal. There was big excitement on the bench. Everyone was high fiving. Everyone was excited. The hair stands up on the back of your neck when something like that happens.”
In overtime, Toledo outshot Gwinnett 3-2. In the shootout, Shalunov showed good stick-handling to give the Walleye a 1-0 lead. But Gwinnett's Brenden Walker and Dirk Southern beat Coreau. And Gladiator goalie Mark Guggenberger stopped Joe Gleason, Perlini, Ryan Flanigan, and Kyle Bodie.
“I thought we played well enough to win for sure,” Watson said. “You tie it up with three seconds left … you hope in the overtime you can sneak one by. And then shootouts are a 50-50 battle.”
It was the first time Toledo went to overtime at home this season.
The Gladiators scored the go-ahead goal late in the third on Mike Merrifield's rebound goal. Merrifield finished with a goal and two assists.
Rogers, Toledo's captain, tied the game up at 2 with a power play goal just 22 seconds into the second period. Gleason had a shot from the point and Rogers tipped it in.
But just 32 seconds later Gwinnett went back up by one.
However, Toledo tied it back up at 3 on Abercrombie's second of the game. Abercrombie made a nice move around Gwinnett defenseman Matthew Clune and roofed his shot with 1:31 left in the second.
Gwinnett took a 1-0 lead 7:01 into game as Brenden Walker scored on a one timer off of a pass from Merrifield from behind the net.
But Toledo tied it as Abercrombie intercepted a pass deep in the Gladiators' end and quickly beat Guggenberger (28 saves) to knot it at 1 with 8:00 left in in the first period.
Gwinnett went up 2-1 with a late first period goal. Southern scored on assist again by Merrifield from behind the net.
There are 10 games left in the season, including four at the Huntington Center. The Walleye have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
Toledo plays at Wheeling on Friday and at Kalamazoo on Saturday before returning home next Sunday to host the K-Wings.
“It's a great group of characters in there,” Watson said. “All the guys have pride and there is a lot to still play for.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.