It was a pretty uninspired effort from the Quad-City Mallards on Wednesday night.
The Mallards were outplayed throughout the game by a Utah Grizzlies team fighting for the playoffs, falling 5-2 at the TaxSlayer Center. It's the fourth straight loss for the Mallards, who moved back into the bottom of the league standings with 17 games remaining.
"Turnovers, no urgency, no attention to detail," head coach Phil Axtell said. "We created their offense."
The Grizzlies controlled play for most of the night. Brad Navin put the Grizzlies on the board, finding open space in between the face-off circles to bury a one-timer past Ivan Kulbakov at the 9-minute, 54-second mark of the first period.
Kulbakov made 35 saves as the Mallards were outshot 39-29.
Greg Amlong answered with his second goal of the season, firing a one-timer of his own from the blue line past Joel Rumpel at 12:41 to tie the game.
Ryan Walters gave the Grizzlies a 2-1 lead, scoring just after a Utah power-play had expired at 16:08 to send Utah into the first intermission with the lead.
Austin Ortega quickly made it 3-1, pouncing on a loose puck in the neutral zone and poking the puck past Kulbakov at 3:16 in the second period.
"We've got to get back to our game plan, and that's getting pucks deep and making these defensemen work," Amlong said. "You've got to make them turn and play a 200-foot game. We're turning pucks over before we're getting to the blue line, and they're scoring off the transition.
"It's not like they're doing anything spectacular. We're just giving them goals on our own."
Kyle Novak scored 64 seconds later, grabbing his first career goal in his 37th game with the Mallards.
"I was finally at the point where I wasn't really thinking about it, but now that it happened, it feels really good," Novak said.
Novak has played sparingly this season for the Mallards but has seen more time as of late, playing in eight of the last nine games.
"I think that helps a lot, getting used to the tempo and speed of the game," he said. "When you're in and out you have to adapt every time you're getting back in. It's nice to finally get the legs going."
Another turnover kept the Mallards from getting any closer as a puck got away from Matt Pohlkamp in the third period, giving Ryan Misiak a breakaway goal at 3:43.
Ryan Walters scored an empty-net goal to cap the scoring.
It's a different roster than the one that was making strides two weeks ago. Keegan Kolesar and C.J. Motte are back in the AHL, Triston Grant is in the middle of a five-game suspension, and the Mallards were dealt another blow when versatile defenseman Kyle Follmer suffered an upper body injury in the first period. He did not return, and Axtell said his status was "doubtful" moving forward.
The team has to find ways to win with the players on the ice.
"It's wanting to execute," Axtell said. "We had way too many blue line turnovers, and we're successful when we get pucks in behind their 'D' and we're tenacious on pucks. We weren't tonight."
The Mallards now have a day off before hosting the Grizzlies again on Friday, starting a weekend with three games in three days. With a day to reflect on what went wrong, the team hopes to do a lot more right in the rematch.
"I think for us, we have to be glad we don't have to wait very long to get back at it," Novak said. "We just have to come back and play our game, get pucks deep and do the small things right."