Another sluggish start cost the Quad-City Mallards on Wednesday night.
The Mallards gave up two first-period goals for the second time in their first three games and fell 5-2 to the Tulsa Oilers at the TaxSlayer Center. The Mallards exited the first period down two goals in both of those games, and each resulted in a loss.
"Our starts haven't been the best," defenseman Greg Amlong said. "It's up to us. The coaches put the systems and everything together, but it's up to us to come out and play, and we've been slow the past couple of games. That's got to stop if we want to win."
Unlike in the opening night loss to Toledo, where the Mallards gave up two quick goals and then settled in, Wednesday night began with a full 20 minutes of futility.
The Mallards struggled to sustain any offensive attack and keep Tulsa out of their zone. They were outshot 22-9 in the first period and trailed 2-0 on goals from Justin Selman and Adam Pleskach.
It could have been even worse if not for the play of C.J. Motte, who did all he could to keep the Mallards in the game.
"C.J. stood on his head that first period," Amlong said. "Who knows what it really could have been."
The Mallards will be without Motte — who made 38 saves — for Saturday's game against Toledo as head coach Phil Axtell said both he and forward Keegan Kolesar will be joining the AHL's Chicago Wolves for their game Saturday against Tucson.
Kolesar was expected to rejoin the Wolves after Wednesday's game, while Motte's move is the likely result of Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury suffering a concussion, which caused the Golden Knights to recall Chicago goaltender Maxime Lagace.
Axtell didn't give a timetable on how long Motte would be with the Wolves and said rookie Ivan Kulbakov would be getting the start in Saturday's game against Toledo.
"I've got to figure out how to get these guys going in the first period," Axtell said. "Got to be better defensively. Defense will lead to offense."
The Mallards did play better in the second period, with Sam Warning scoring his third goal of the season two minutes, 12 seconds into the period to put the Mallards on the board. Tulsa answered with a power play goal from Tommy Vannelli, but Justin Kovacs scored his second goal of the season to cut the deficit to 3-2 heading into the second intermission.
"We've just got to start," Amlong said. "We're finishing well, we're getting better as the game goes on, but we can't go down two goals every game and expect to come back in this league."
The Mallards had some chances to tie it early in the third. Given a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:27, the Mallards failed to get a shot on goal. Following the power play they also had some looks, including a missed one from Justin Kovacs that caused him to look to the rafters in exasperation.
Conner Bleackley scored with five minutes left to make it 4-2, and Evan Richardson tallied an empty net goal to ice the game away.
"We're getting chances," Axtell said. "All three lines are getting a lot of chances, just have to start capitalizing and burying on Grade A opportunities and play more as a unit in the D-zone."