DULUTH - The streaks continue.
The Gwinnett Gladiators won a franchise-record eighth straight game with a 6-1 victory over the sliding Greenville Grrrowl on Tuesday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Milan Gajic scored two goals and added two assists to help the division-leading Gladiators hand Greenville its fifth consecutive loss. The Grrrowl are winless in their last six games and trail Gwinnett by 15 points in the ECHL South standings. Slightly more than a week ago, Greenville could have gotten as close as three points, but were shut out here and haven't recovered.
"We hit the hot streak right at the right time," Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. "So I'm happy about that.
"Eight in a row is pretty huge at this time of the season. Right now we're winning the games we have to win."
The Gladiators, who also got a goal and two assists from Scott Mifsud, improved their conference-best record to 31-9-5 and have a 10-point edge in the division over second-place Florida.
"We played well," said Gajic following his most productive night since being assigned to Gwinnett from the AHL on Dec. 26. "We capitalized on our chances and that's all you've really got to do. Toward the end of the season, when teams are trying to get better slots for playoffs, it's going to be a lot tighter."
Greenville goalie Cam Ellsworth came under pressure early and often with Gwinnett getting several breakaways before finally scoring on the power play at 10:04 of the first period. Ellsworth and the defense defused rushes by Adam Smyth and Guillaume Desbiens, but succumbed to the league's second-best power play.
Playing 4-on-3, Gajic cruised up the right wing boards and found Mifsud with a centering pass. Ellsworth didn't get enough of Mifsud's point-blank tip and it rolled over the goal line for a 1-0 Gladiators' lead.
Gajic assisted again as Gwinnett doubled its advantage. Gajic dished to defenseman Steve Slaton and Slaton whipped a wrister past Ellsworth with 49 seconds left in the period.
Greenville registered its first shot on goal 6:56 into the game and couldn't light the lamp despite some sloppy play from the Gladiators in their own zone late in the first.
Gajic made it 3-0, rolling in alone and smoothly pegging the top shelf at 13:34 of the second period. But Greenville spoiled the shutout on a breakaway for Tim Sestito at 16:44 and carried the momentum into the final period.
The Grrrowl had two full minutes on the two-man advantage, nearly 90 seconds worth to start the third, and failed to
"(Goalie Tuomas Tarkki) stood on his head for two minutes there," Gajic said. "He made a huge save at the end of the second and then he made a couple big saves in the third. After that, we just kind of broke the door open."
Gajic, under contract to Providence, shoveled a backhander past Ellsworth 1:50 into the third. Defenseman Rick Emmett, returning four games ago from offseason wrist surgery, assisted on Gajic's 16th tally of the season and scored his first goal of the year at 14:06.
Derek Nesbitt potted an unassisted goal at 17:37 for the final margin as some fans' chant of "warm up the bus" was clearly audible in the sparsely populated arena.
"Other than the end of the second period, I was really happy," Pyle said. "I thought we played a pretty complete game. I was worried that we might come out flat (from a Super Bowl hangover). But we played hard, we got pucks deep.
"Gajic was great. And the 5-on-3 kill was huge."