The Quad City Mallards won a rematch over the Fort Wayne Komets 2-0 today at the iWireless Center. The Mallards were able to use defensive intensity to create goal scoring chances, and goaltender Steve Michalek shined in net to earn a shutout.
This game started out very differently from Friday’s game, when the Mallards did not get a shot on goal until nearly 15 minutes into the game. It was a very evenly matched first period this time. The Mallards drew two power play chances but were unable to convert. In addition, Matt Carey drew a penalty shot at 15:04 of the period but Komets’ goaltender Pat Nagle made a good save. The Mallards ended up out-shooting the Komets 9-7 in the period.
The second period was very similar to the first. The Komets had a power play early in the period but the Mallards’ penalty kill did a good job limiting the Komets’ league-leading power play to only two shots. At 14:36 of the second period, Curtis Leonard and Tanner Eberle were entangled. Eberle was called for slashing and Leonard got a double-minor for roughing, giving the Mallards a two minute power play. The Komets’ penalty kill was tough, and did not allow a shot.
Late in the period, the Mallards finally broke through. The Komets’ turned the puck over to Carey who found himself in the slot with the puck. He was able to beat Nagle to give the Mallards a 1-0 lead with just 11 seconds left in the period. The goal was unassisted, but I believe a hit led to an errant pass which Carey intercepted. Shots on goal were even at 19 as the game headed to the third period.
The Komets came out strong in the third period and took the first four shots. At the 3:56 mark of the third, the Komets once again got burned on a turnover, though. This time Austin Coldwell was able to keep a bad pass in the zone and tipped the puck to Carey. Carey found Olivier Archambault with a pass, which put him in a one on one situation with Nagle. Archambault made a great move to beat Nagle and give the Mallards a 2-0 lead.
About a minute after the goal, Sam Warning was called for tripping. The Komets showed why they lead the league in power play percentage, cranking up the intensity and getting six shots on net this time, some of which were great chances. Michalek though was spectacular and did not allow any past as the Mallards killed the penalty.
The Mallards were playing a defensive game at this point trying to kill the clock. The Komets kept up the pressure and ended up outshooting the Mallards 23-4 in the third period. The Komets got another power play chance, and this time Michalek had to make five solid saves to keep them off the scoreboard. The Mallards had two power play chances near the end of the game where they were content to cycle the puck and run the clock and not try to create a shot. This killed almost all of the last four minutes of the game. In all, Michalek stopped 42 shots for the shutout.
This win snapped a four game home losing streak for the Mallards. After Friday’s loss, the team was so frustrated they had a 35 minute team meeting. Also on Friday, there were three players that all returned from injury – Tanner Eberle, Kevin Gibson and Kevin Henderson. To me the team looked a bit rusty at the beginning of the game on Friday. Today any signs of rust were gone, but the main difference was that the Mallards’ defensive intensity was much better. Very few times was a Komets’ player left open. The Komets were not able to easily bring the puck into the offensive zone very often. The Mallards were able to tip passes and break up plays today a lot better than on Friday. Both of the Mallards’ goals were off of turnovers, which is also very telling. The Mallards need to find a way to play with this level of defensive intensity every game if they are going to contend in the Midwest Division.