A familiar feeling of dread crept through the TaxSlayer Center.
The Quad-City Mallards had blown a three-goal lead just three weeks prior in a shootout loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones. Once again, fans saw that same lead evaporate Sunday against the Cyclones.
Justin Vaive made sure the ending wasn't too much different, scoring his third goal of the game one minute, 35 seconds into overtime to give the Cyclones a 6-5 win over the Mallards.
The loss comes on the heels of an epic comeback Saturday night. The Mallards scored three goals in the final three minutes before beating Kalamazoo in a shootout up in Michigan.
"Last night was a gutsy win," forward Jamie Tardif said of the Saturday win over the Wings. "Last night it was a matter of getting the bounces and tonight was the same thing ... we need to keep the foot on the gas. They've got a lot of good forwards and great defensemen. So for us, we need to keep the pedal down and keep doing what we're doing.
"We can't get complacent and think, 'OK, we're up three goals, we'll go on cruise control.' The way this league is, the amount of skill that's in this league, you can't take the foot off the gas for one second."
Tardif had two goals, including a power play tally with 2:39 left in the game to put the Mallards up 5-4. The Cyclones responded by pulling goaltender Jonas Johansson after the ensuing face-off and the bold move paid off as Vaive scored his second goal just 48 seconds later.
Vaive scored on a 2-on-1 in the overtime to end the game.
Head coach Phil Axtell said he wasn't surprised at how early Cincinnati pulled its goalie, particularly since it paid off.
"A lot of guys are doing that so that if they give up the empty net, they have enough time, as how I see it, to make up for it," he said. "We let them get the zone and we're puck watching (on the equalizer).
"In overtime, we come down, take a shot, that's wide. It's fine but then we jump and we shouldn't have jumped and it's 2-on-1 and the kid buries."
The Mallards came out of the gates firing, sparked by some new faces.
One night after serving as the hero by scoring the only goal of the shootout in the Mallards’ comeback win over the Kalamazoo Wings, Chris Izmirlian scored his first career ECHL goal, putting the Mallards up just 69 seconds into the game.
Newly-signed Mallard defenseman Jared Nightingale made it 2-0 with a blast from the blue line and Matt Pohlkamp padded the margin to 3-0 with a backhand shot at 12:29 in the first period.
Nightingale had retired from hockey last spring and was serving as assistant coach with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. He signed a one-day contract to play Sunday and despite not playing since April, made his presence felt early.
"That was fortunate and, to be honest, I think Tardif got a piece of it, that was just him being a class act," Nightingale said. "That was nice, it would have been nice to get a win but I'm really thankful coach Axtell and (Omaha coach David Wilkie) allowed it. I think it was important, I missed the game a lot, it's just been 10 months since my last game. I had butterflies."
After Pohlkamp's goal, Cincinnati scored twice to cut the lead to 3-2 after one period, then Tardif scored the first of his two goals to push the lead to 4-2. Cincinnati scored two goals in less than two minutes to tie the game through two periods.
Jake Paterson made 23 saves for the Mallards while Johansson made 36 for the Cyclones.