Jesse Messier, left, celebrates scoring against Gwinnett with teammate Dean Chelios. Chelios and his brother, Jake, both signed with Toledo on Saturday.
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The fans rose to their feet at the Huntington Center and then music thumped in the locker room after the Walleye were able to celebrate a win for the first time in a long time at the downtown arena.
Toledo scored four goals in a span of 7:47 to defeat Gwinnett 4-1 on Saturday.
Brett Perlini tallied two goals a little more than three minutes apart in the second period. The Walleye broke a 12-game home losing streak and snapped a four-game losing streak overall before a crowd of 6,974.
“It's a big relief,” Perlini said. “Watching the fans get on their feet was pretty special. We owe it to them to to give them wins.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the game
After Gwinnett scored 29 seconds into the first period, Ryan Flanigan started the scoring barrage late in the frame. Mark Abercrombie followed that up to give Toledo a 2-1 lead with 1:47 left in the period.
It was the team's first home win since Jan. 26.
“It felt great to see all the fans standing on their feet for the final minute applauding our effort,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “You hear the boos when they are on us. And then it's nice they recognized the effort the guys put forth.”
Brett Perlini takes a shot against Gwinnett goaltender Josh Unice, who is a St. John’s graduate, a Holland native, and a 2007 third-round draft pick of Chicago.
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Perlini scored on two straight shots early in the second to push the cushion to 4-1.
“Sometimes that is the way it goes,” Perlini said. “You get one and see the light go off. Guys get hungry and start believing that we can score some goals. That is how it goes in bunches.”
Goalie Hannu Toivonen (10-12-0) was solid throughout, earning the win with 34 saves.
St. John's Jesuit graduate and Holland native Josh Unice made the start in goal for Gwinnett. Unice made 10 saves on 14 shots before being pulled in the second.
Max Shalunov had two assists for Toledo (19-38-4).
The Walleye killed off six Gladiators power plays, including a four-minute minor and five-minute major.
“It's all about outworking their group of five even though you only have four on the ice,” Watson said. “Your No. 1 penalty killer is your goaltender. Hannu made some remarkable saves. He gave us an opportunity to win once again.”
Flanigan, who scored his fourth of the season, was claimed off of waivers from Evansville earlier in the day. He was with Toledo earlier this season, appearing four games with three points.
The team also signed the sons of NHL Hall of Famer Chris Chelios on Saturday.
Forward Dean Chelios and defenseman Jake Chelios both wrapped up four-year college careers at Michigan State on Thursday.
Dean Chelios had 14 points with two goals and 12 assists in 34 games as a senior. Jake Chelios had two goals and 19 assists for 21 points in 36 games for the Spartans.
Chris Chelios played in 26 seasons in the NHL, including 10 with the Detroit Red Wings. He played in the most games by any defenseman in NHL history (1,651).
Neither Chelios recorded a point.
“We know they will compete like their father did,” Watson said. “They will be character guys who are team-first guys.”
Perlini's first goal was set up by a strong forecheck by Dean Chelios. Perlini was a teammate of the Chelios at Michigan State.
“It was awesome having those guys here,” Perlini said.
“It's great to be here for their first pro game and help them out. The sky's the limit for these guys. We couldn't have planned it any better.”
Gwinnett (25-35-5) has lost three in a row.
The teams meet again at 5:15 p.m. today at Huntington Center.
“We had the puck luck tonight,” Watson said. “The biggest things was the guys were working hard for those opportunities.
"It's starting to roll with good habits.”