BRAMPTON, Ont. — Ivan Kulbakov made a triumphant return to the Quad-City Mallards on Wednesday night.
Kulbakov made 32 saves, helping the Mallards pull out a 3-2 win over the Brampton Beast at the Powerade Centre. It was Kulbakov's first game back with the Mallards since Dec. 2 after being loaned to the team Tuesday by the Cleveland Monsters.
"Kulby stood on his head," head coach Phil Axtell said. "Our 'D' were exhausted with only five back there, and he picked up the slack."
The Mallards jumped out on the Beast early with Alex Globke scoring three minutes, 10 seconds into the game. Globke finished with a goal and an assist, helping set up Jamie Tardif's goal at 9:49 to put the Mallards up 2-0.
Tardif now has four goals in his last two games, a promising sign in the Welland, Ontario, native's fourth game back from injury.
"Tards has returned with an approach I haven't seen from him before," Axtell said. "He's doing the little things every shift and paying the price in front of the net. I'm happy he was able to score in front of his kids and family."
Former Mallard Brandon Marino cut the score to 2-1 heading into the second period, but Willie Raskob responded, giving the Mallards a 3-1 lead with his second goal of the season midway through the second period.
From then on, the Mallards relied on Kulbakov and their penalty kill. The Mallards own the second-worst penalty kill in the league but were 5-for-6 on the night, the only power play goal coming from Reggie Traccitto in the third period to pull Brampton to 3-2.
In the last three games, the Mallards have killed off 11 of their opponent's 14 power play chances.
"Guys are buying in with the penalty kill," Axtell said. "We're starting to execute more on a regular basis."
The Mallards continue their road trip Friday against the Worcester Railers at 6 p.m.
O'Connor to Manchester: Prior to the game, the Nashville Predators recalled goaltender Matt O'Connor from the Mallards to the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, then reassigned him to the ECHL's Manchester Monarchs.
O'Connor is 0-8-2 with a 4.51 goals against average and a .869 save percentage this season with the Mallards.