Everybody in the place thought they were having a terminal sense of deja vu.
One night after blowing a 4-0 lead at Wheeling to lose 6-5, the Fort Wayne Komets held a 4-1 lead over the Nailers, this time before 6,791 Memorial Coliseum fans. In fact, the 4-2 margin after two periods was exactly the game, and then the ice seemed to tilt back again on the Komets' zone.
When Wheeling's Cody Wydo scored with 4:11 left to make it 4-3, everyone was thinking, "Here we go again!"
But this time the goaltender was able to make the game-saving stops, as Garrett Bartus stopped 12 of 13 in the final period. A couple of the saves were spectacular as the Komets held on for the win.
"After what happened last night, there was obviously something on our mind," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "I was very disappointed with a couple of puck decisions we made in the third. We have to be better playing with the lead, but I seen a lot of desperation and guys blocking shots. I thought Barts gave us the saves we needed, and at the end of the day it's a win."
It was an escape, especially considering the Komets were out-shot 13-2 in the third period, but they were much better back-checking Saturday night, they killed off a 2:00 Wheeling two-man advantage in the third period and they blocked a ton of Nailers shots. Several players were wearing ice bags after the game or getting checked out by the team doctor.
Bartus is now 3-0-1 over his last four games, giving up seven goals and stopping .929 percent of the shots against him.
"He's just battling hard," defenseman Cody Sol said. "He wants to be in the net. He's making a name for himself. You have to fight to be in the lineup, and that's what he's doing now."
But Bartus is also coming up with the big saves that are erasing his teammate's mistakes.
"He's got a great attitude," Graham said. "He's been a winner. He's been a top goalie in the SPHL last year and this year he's won his team a lot of games. Goalies are ultimately about confidence. When you are winning games and you have that feel-good attitude going, it helps you in net. He's been working hard in practice, he's positive and he's embracing the opportunity. He's calm in the net, too, and he's a calming influence. He gives you a save and when things are getting chaotic, he settles things down and I like that."
The Komets also got two goals and an assist from Kyle Thomas and two assists each from Shawn Szydlowski and Jamie Schaafsma. Mike Cazzola and Brady Vail scored the other goals.
Szydlowski has five goals and 16 points over his last eight games, Vail has five points in four games as Komet and Thomas has 13 goals in 24 games this season after scoring 15 in 61 last year.
The Komets, who are 9-2 at home, host Orlando at 5 p.m. Sunday.