This one was a gut punch.
After roaring out to a three-goal lead, the Quad-City Mallards were undone by familiar problems that have plagued the team over the last month.
A struggling penalty kill and goaltending, goals allowed and leads blown once again cost the Mallards in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones, the team's ninth straight loss.
"This league, we've quickly learned we've got to play a full 60 minutes," forward Brayden Low said. "You could point to a few different areas of the game we need to tighten up, but I thought for the first time in quite a while, this was one of the ones we didn't get the result we deserved."
Justin Danforth scored the only goal of the shootout as Jason Kasdorf stopped all three Mallards' shots he faced, including a sprawling save to get a stick on a chance from Gergo Nagy in the second round.
The Mallards roared out of the gates, unleashing nearly a month's worth of frustration in the first four minutes.
Low scored his eighth goal of the season just one minute, 49 seconds into the game. Triston Grant made it 2-0 with a shot from the high side boards at 3:41 then just 21 seconds later, Kenney Morrison bombed a shot from the point into the net. Morrison’s goal made it 3-0 and chased Cincinnati goaltender Jonas Johansson from the net.
"That's all it was, we were in on the forecheck, we were being physical, causing turnovers, getting pucks and bodies to the net," Low said. "That's how winning hockey's played. I'm not saying we got away from that in the remainder of the game, but we've got to do that all the time."
The Mallards had more chances throughout the game and for the most part controlled the play but couldn't build on their lead, hitting posts and missing shots that kept Cincinnati in it.
And the Cyclones picked their moments to get back into the game.
The Mallards held Cincinnati without a shot for the first 6:11 of the game, but a holding the stick penalty on Grant gave the Cyclones a power play, and Winston Day Chief capitalized to cut the lead to 3-1.
Day Chief scored again in the second period to cut the lead to 3-2. In the last two weeks, Day Chief has scored six goals in three games against the Mallards.
Anthony Florentino scored off a defensive-zone face-off, getting a clean look on goal past Mallard goaltender Matt O'Connor at 2:58 to tie the game 3-3.
That goal would have sunk the Mallards in games past, but to their credit, they responded with a goal from Jake Bolton to retake the lead at 6:21.
Alex Kile tied the game again with a power play goal at 14:41. The Mallards have now allowed seven goals in their last 10 penalty kills. O'Connor made 25 saves and remains winless on the season.
"The first (power play goal), we should have won a battle, the second power play, I don't know how that goes in," head coach Phil Axtell said. "It's outside the dots, above the circles and it goes far side. Somebody's got to block it, that's what it boils down to."
What is perhaps most frustrating for the Mallards over this season is that they have been right with some of the top teams in the league at time.
They took Mountain Division contender Wichita to overtime as well as the Komets and Cyclones. But all those games have ended in losses, and at this point, the Mallards aren't going to get back into the playoff race one point at a time.
"The mood in the room, you try to stay positive as much as you can," Low said. "We know we're right there with all these teams and it just comes down to 60 minutes at the end of the night, and we have yet to play a complete 60 minutes over the last (nine) games. It's just a matter of getting our confidence back too and remembering what (winning) feels like."