Something was going to win out Sunday, but would it be the Komets’ frustrations or their resiliency?
It was the latter, in a game that saw Toledo’s Hannu Toivonen, a former NHL goaltender with Boston and St. Louis, look almost impenetrable.
The Komets peppered him with 47 shots, besting him only twice in a 2-1 Fort Wayne victory. It was forward Chris Auger, netting a shot from the left circle at the end of a 3-on-2 rush, who scored the game-winner 9:35 into the third period before 8,252 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“I think we threw everything but the kitchen sink at him tonight,” said Auger, whose Komets increased their lead over Florida to four points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Komets (34-24-12) have two games remaining in the regular season. Florida (34-27-8) has three.
The last thing the Komets needed was a hiccup against conference-worst Toledo (19-42-8), which has lost four in a row and been defeated by Fort Wayne in 7 of 8 games.
“For everything Toledo is not, their goaltending has to be the best in the league,” Auger said. “Hannu Toivonen is unbelievable. And the way he competes, giving everyone in front of him (a chance), it’s just amazing and it took a full 60 minutes and everything we had to get two pucks by him.”
Steven Summerhays, the former Notre Dame standout, made 18 saves in his professional debut for the Komets. Summerhays is the ninth goalie to play for the Komets, the most they’ve used in any of their 62 seasons, and he allowed a goal 22 seconds into the first period when defenseman C.J. Chartrain scored off a huge rebound.
The Komets tallied 20 of the next 24 shots, including a great chance at 4:50 of the first period from 10 feet out by forward Scott Fleming that Toivonen batted away while on his stomach.
It took a flurry of shots, and rebounds, for forward Brandon Marino to finally get a backhander by Toivonen 1:50 into the second period.
“Their goalie, Toivonen, is a really good goalie. The last couple times we had played against him, we had (totaled 81) shots … and we know we have to get a lot of shots and traffic on him to get the puck in,” Fort Wayne defenseman Jordon Southorn said. “It’s in the back of your mind that maybe we’re not going to beat him, when you throw almost 50 shots on him and there’s only one in the back of the net. It was definitely a relief to get that win and also see South Carolina do us a favor tonight and beat Florida (3-2).”
Marino has six goals and 15 points and Auger has six goals and 11 points against Toledo this season.
Depending on what happens in Florida’s game Wednesday against conference-best Reading, the Komets could clinch a playoff berth Friday against Evansville at the Coliseum. The Komets are trying to avoid missing the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1974 and 1975.
“I was extremely proud of the effort tonight. It was our fourth game in five nights and it’s just a grind right now, this time of the season,” said Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham, whose team is on a 4-1-1 surge. “With all the pressure right now, to go 3-1 this week says a lot about our club.”