FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Quad-City Mallards gave the Fort Wayne Komets too many chances.
Outshot 37-13, the Mallards fell 4-3 to the Komets in Game 1 of the ECHL Division Semifinals on Friday at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Game 2 is tonight in Fort Wayne.
"It was lopsided," head coach Phil Axtell said. "We've got to look at the tape and see what we can do to them to counter their efforts ... we can build on it, they know what it's going to be like tomorrow, regroup and reattack."
Gabriel Desjardins scored the game-winning goal, slipping the puck between the pads of C.J. Motte to cap a run of three straight Komets goals, rallying from a 3-1 second-period deficit.
Desjardins' goal came at the 12-minute, 57-second mark of the third period, just over two minutes after the Mallards had killed off a four-minute power play.
The Mallards pulled Motte — who made 33 saves — in the final minute, and nearly tied it, but Sam Warning's look at an open net sailed just wide and the Mallards didn't get a better chance in the closing seconds.
Axtell didn't say who his goalie would be in tonight's game, but did have high praise for Motte.
"He played excellent," Axtell said. "He was our best player tonight."
The Mallards took control early, getting goals from Alex Petan and Grant Arnold to take a 2-0 lead at 16:50 in the first period.
Petan, Arnold and Brady Brassart missed the final two games of the season against Fort Wayne, and Petan and Arnold each finished with a goal and an assist on the night.
"They played playoff hockey," Axtell said. "They stuck to the gameplan all night and it was great to have them back in the lineup. They played simple, they played hard, they blocked shots, they did everything you need to do in the playoffs and more consistently than the rest of the guys."
Mike Cazzola gave the Komets a touch of life heading into the first intermission with a goal at 19:43 in the period to make the deficit 2-1. Cazzola added an assist on the night and has been red hot down the stretch for the Komets, scoring seven goals and adding six assists in his last eight game.
Just 2:35 into the second period, Dylan Labbe gave the Mallards a 3-1 lead on the Mallards first shot of the period.
But from there on, it was all Fort Wayne.
The Komets outshot the Mallards 17-2 in the middle period and went into the second intermission tied.
Travis Ewanyk deflected a shot by Desjardins past Motte at 13:22 to cut the lead back to 3-2. Shawn Szydlowski scored just over two minutes later on the power play to knot the score.
Fort Wayne was called for four penalties in the game while the Mallards were whistled for eight, including a double minor from Petan that was killed off before Desjardins' goal
"That's when the game, when there's that many penalties ... (nearly) a whole period," Axtell said. "It breaks up any chemistry and flow the lines were having. Not everyone kills penalties, not everyone's on the power play. That kill was huge, guys blocking shots, clearing pucks, winning puck battles."
The Mallards held the Komets to just five shots in the third period but only had three of their own..
Gill, Costello receive ECHL awards: Allen Americans goaltender Riley Gill received the Warrior Hockey goaltender of the year award and Allen forward Chad Costello was named the CCM Hockey MVP.
Gill went 32-7-2 last year and led the league with a .935 save percentage and was second with a 2.22 goals against average. He tied for the league lead with seven shutouts, second most by a goaltender in league history.
Costello was named MVP for the second straight season, and third time in his ECHL career. He is the only player in league history to win multiple MVP awards. He led the league in scoring for the third consecutive season with 122 points — 33 goals and 89 assists — in 72 games.