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Komets force Game 6

April 21, 2019 GMT

TOLEDO : It takes more than one great play to deliver a victory like this : the Komets faced a must-win situation and emerged with a 5-3 victory in the hostile confines of the Huntington Center : but hidden amid the many storylines that would get them this game was one of the best saves you’ll ever see.

Toledo Walleye playmaker Shane Berschbach skated in from the left dasher boards and unleashed a shot that seemed destined to go just inside the left goalpost and tie the game. But Fort Wayne goaltender Zach Fucale, sliding to his right, did the unthinkable by dropping his stick to make a glove save with his blocker hand.

“I’ve done it a couple times, but I got lucky. It was a lucky save. Sometimes it hits you,” said Fucale, who had 32saves.

They still trail the best-of-7 Central Division semifinals 3-2, so they’ll face the same situation 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

“It was a total team effort. It’s hard to pinpoint what it is, but I learned last year in the playoffs that when you’re trying to eliminate a team, it’s real hard to take the sticks out of another team’s hands,” said Brady Shaw, who last season helped the Colorado Eagles to a Kelly Cup championship, but experienced losing a potential clinching game to the Komets at home. “Our guys played desperate tonight, bought into the system and played as a team.”

It helped matters that J.C. Campagna, Anthony Nellis and Anthony Petruzzelli got their first goals of the series, that the Komets led a game for the first time and, most importantly, that their power play was 3 for 6.

Coming in, they were 1 for 17 on power plays. And they failed to produce a shot on their first man-advantage Saturday. But things changed 18:22 into the first period when a Josh Elmes wrist shot sailed through a crowd and Mason Baptista was there to put the rebound in on his second attempt.

Berschbach thought he was going to tie it before Fucale came up with his epic save, which held up to the scrutiny of a video review, and was followed by Nellis’ 30-foot shot for a 2-0 lead.

Toledo didn’t let down and Zach Gallant’s shot from the bottom of the left circle cut the deficit to one. But Shaw made it 3-1 during a power play by snapping a shot from the top of the right circle that took advantage of a Petruzzelli screen to go underneath goalie Pat Nagle at 12:52 of the second period.

Nagle, who stopped 20 shots, kept his team in it by thwarting a Marco Roy breakaway at 17:42 and Toledo’s Matt Register repaid him by scoring during a 5-on-3 power play with a shot from the top of the left circle, cutting the Fort Wayne lead to 3-2 and firing up the crowd of 7,704.

Campagna, who was second in the ECHL with 35 regular-season goals, netted a 5-on-3 goal of his own 6:02 into the third period. And Petruzzelli followed a goal by Toledo’s Kevin Tansey with an empty-netter.

Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham made some bold lineup decisions coming into the game, opting to sit his All-Star, Justin Hodgman, the team’s Defenseman of the Year, Ryan Lowney, and Craig Cescon, in favor of Baptista and rookies Chase Stewart and Cam Knight.

“The lineup changes didn’t have anything to do with the amount of sacrifice that the guys that were in the lineup put in,” Graham said. “That’s the real story, the amount of shot blocks, the heart, the positivity that was on the bench. We were disciplined and it was just a total, complete team win.”

Toledo was 1 for 5 on power plays.

“We’re confident with anybody in this room,” Shaw said. “Hodgman, Lowney and Cescon are such big pieces of our team, and they’ve done so much for the team. But whoever gets inserted, we’re a team in here no matter who’s sitting out or who’s playing. I’m really proud of the guys tonight.”

jcohn@jg.net