Third time’s the charm.
For the third straight meeting, the Quad-City Mallards took a three-goal lead over the Cincinnati Cyclones on Wednesday night at the TaxSlayer Center. Unlike the previous two matchups, the Mallards made this one hold up.
The Mallards held off the Cyclones for a 4-3 win, their first win over the Cyclones this season.
"We'd been talking about it in the locker room this morning, we need to play a solid hockey game," forward Gergo Nagy said. "We own these guys, but we also talked about how we've blown a three-goal lead the past few times so we were like, let's make sure this is done. This is not going to happen (again)."
Nagy had a goal and two assists on the night, his first multi-point game since rejoining the Mallards in December. His goal came on a breakaway midway through the second period to put the Mallards up 3-0. But like in the previous two meetings, the Cyclones weren't prepared to throw in the towel.
And just like in those last two matchups, a power play goal got the Cyclones back into the game. Justin Danforth scored his 23rd goal of the season, blasting a shot from the blue line through traffic and past Mallards goaltender C.J. Motte to put the Cyclones on the board at the 10-minute, 59-second mark of the second period.
Rob De Fulviis made it 3-2 less than four minutes later, and thoughts of the last two blown leads crept into the back of the players' minds.
"I didn't bring it up, (assistant coach Mike Leone) didn't bring it up, but I heard the boys, somebody say, 'We're not letting this happen again, let's pick it up and stick to the gameplan," head coach Phil Axtell said.
Captain Triston Grant scored at 4:35 in the third period to put the Mallards up by two goals. Grant now has six goals in 17 games, currently on the most efficient scoring output of his 13-year career.
"He plays the right way. He sees the ice. He competes," Axtell said. "I wish I would have brought him in when I first heard about him. He's helped a lot."
Still, Cincinnati refused to call it quits, with Mike Barrett scoring to cut the lead to 4-3 at 14:27 in the third period.
But the Mallards finally showed some mettle, hanging onto the win, even with Cincinnati pulling goaltender Jason Kasdorf for the final two minutes.
"We obviously don't forget about the last two games," Grant said. "We've got a young team, but guys are learning and doing different things than we were doing the last time, just trying to stick to the gameplan, don't get too high or too low. I thought tonight's game was a good example of that, we had a really good first period then got into penalty trouble in the second, but then we grinded it out in the third."
Motte made 36 saves in his first game back with the team since Jan. 12. The Mallards started the scoring in the first period, getting goals from Ryan McGrath and Brayden Low. Low now has 10 goals and 14 assists in 42 games after totaling just seven points in the same amount of time last year with Rapid City.
Mallards without Warning: The Mallards played the game without leading goal-scorer Sam Warning, out with a lower body injury. Warning has 16 goals and 15 assists in 41 games this season.