DULUTH - The power play was working nicely and the Gwinnett Gladiators poured it on in the third period to crush South Carolina 7-3 in front of a large Tuesday night crowd at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The Gladiators spent the first 40 minutes coming back and the last 20 minutes going away. Gwinnett took its first lead 53 seconds into the third, sparking an offensive explosion that unmanned the Stingrays and delighted the 4,668 on hand.
Derek Nesbitt's first multi-goal game kept the Gladiators in the game through the second intermission and Brad Schell's two third-period tallies sent the Stingrays packing. Gwinnett (15-6-4) lit the lamp four times in the first 10 minutes of the third period and picked up two big divisional points against South Carolina (10-12-6).
It was the second consecutive win for the Gladiators coming back from the holiday break.
"The penalty kill was awesome, a shorty, three power plays, scoring from every line - if you can't win then, you shouldn't be in the league," Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle said with a bit of a grin. "The guys were patient in the third. I know they believe we can always win, but you get into that third 3-3, you get one bad bounce and it can go the other way.
"But you do what you've got to do. Everybody stepped up."
Nesbitt scored the first of Gwinnett's three power-play goals at 9:16 of the first period, but it was sandwiched between two South Carolina tallies, leaving the Gladiators trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Playing with a two-man advantage, Nesbitt was in the high slot when newly acquired forward Milan Gajic made the feed from down low. Nesbitt unloaded a swift wrist shot and Gajic earned a point in his second game with the Gladiators after being assigned by AHL Providence on Monday.
Stingrays' tough guy Robin Gomez potted the go-back-ahead goal at 13:26 when Gwinnett started running around defensively. Gomez' eighth tally of the season was off a juicy rebound left sitting in the slot.
The Gladiators battled back from that deficit on a rocket from the top of the circle by Steve Slaton 3:07 into the second period before falling behind one final time on a shorthanded goal at 9:57.
But Nesbitt was good for another equalizer 25 seconds later, setting the table for the remarkable third-period
"We've played this team twice before and it's been high scoring all the time, so we knew the goals were going to come," Nesbitt said. "We just had to be patient and play our game instead of theirs, get our shots, wait for our power plays. That's what happened and it started going in."
Schell, at the post and without much of an angle, cranked a puck into the back of the net less than a minute into the third period. It was his fourth power-play goal of the season and third game winner.
Scott Mifsud made it 5-3 at 2:43, jamming home the rebound after Lane Manson's shot from the point was turned away.
Schell scored his 12th of the season shorthanded at 4:47 and Guillaume Desbiens dumped some more gas on the fire, making it 7-3 at 8:18. Those last two tallies came against goalie Davis Parley after starter Maxime Daigneault was pulled.
Gwinnett goalie Adam Berkhoel, reassigned by NHL Atlanta on Monday, made 28 saves in his first home start with the Gladiators this season.
"We turned it over twice, which cost us (two goals)," Pyle said. "But again, we came back. I give the guys credit, three lines were going and that was huge. Big win for Berkie.
"That's what we need, we need everybody going, and four unanswered goals shows a lot of character."