With 4 seconds remaining in the second period of the Quad-City Mallards' 3-2 loss to the Fort Wayne Komets, it appeared the Mallards would escape to their locker room with just a one-goal deficit.
Fort Wayne left wing Artem Podshendyalov had other ideas.
The forward came up the left side of the ice, got Mallards netminder David Brown out of position and dished to an open Chris Auger, who deposited the puck into the vacated space as the horn sounded, doubling the Komets' lead and sending the Mallards to their third consecutive home loss Friday night at i wireless Center.
"That's a momentum killer," Mallards coach David Bell said. "That's a lack of clock management and focus. Any goal at the end of the period is tough to swallow, and that was four guys caught deep and one guy pinching when there's 4 seconds left. You just kill the clock there and live to fight again the next period."
The Mallards didn't, and their frustration was evident as several of them slammed their sticks against the boards as they stormed off to the locker room to try to regroup.
"It's infuriating, to say the least," Brown said. "We've got to be better. You've got to have an idea of the clock at that time of the game. Obviously, that's a huge momentum goal to give up that late, and ended up being a backbreaker for us in the long run.
"To have that happen relatively quickly after (the Komets' second goal) was tough to recover from. We battled hard, but we just couldn't overcome it."
Bell blamed the Mallards' struggles on the lack of intensity the team showed in its first home game since Jan. 22. The Mallards (23-18-1) appeared rusty in the opening period, allowing the Komets (26-13-2) to create chances and eventually make Q-C pay.
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"I thought we lacked energy, urgency and excitement," Bell said. "The whole place was just boring, and it was a boring game. We're a high-energy team, and when we don't play that way, we're not very good."
Bell also wasn't thrilled with the Mallards' power-play, despite the fact that both Q-C goals from Matt Duffy and Obi Aduba came with the man advantage. The Mallards were 2 for 5 on the power play, but Bell thought the goals lacked the creativity and attack that are normally staples of the league's highest-scoring power play.
It added up to the Mallards' fourth loss of the season to the Komets and crucial points lost in the race for the Turner Conference's four playoff spots. The Mallards entered Friday night tied for the final slot with Rapid City, maximizing the importance of every remaining game and magnifying the lost opportunity of Friday.
"We have to win (tonight against Bloomington), obviously," Brown said. "One point is huge, and to drop two points like this hurts a lot. We've got to make sure that we get a full two points (tonight) and regain ourselves in the standings."