DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators had a chance to climb over Mississippi in the division standings, but the Sea Wolves took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play late in the third period to claim a 4-3 win Monday.
Mississippi broke up a tie game with 3:20 to go in regulation and remained ahead of the Gladiators in the South. Sea Wolves' defenseman Scott Jackson, recently assigned from AHL Norfolk, picked up his first point on the game-winning goal.
The two-man power play was created when Brandon Kaleniecki swung wildly at a puck - and the feet of a Mississippi player - as he fell in the Sea Wolves' zone. Veteran defenseman Chris Cava was called for delay of game when he fired the puck out over the glass during the first penalty kill.
"That's not good enough," Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. "That's a bad penalty. Defensively, we don't block out. We give up two goals that were totally unnecessary. Like we don't take guys, we get walked at the blue line.
"And those are guys that have been here that know better. To me, that's unacceptable."
Mississippi never trailed in the game and the Gladiators had more trouble on special teams.
"The power play was awful," Pyle said.
The loss came on the heels of a big come-from-behind victory over division-leading Florida and with new blood peppering Gwinnett's roster.
The starting lineup featured four of the five new players sent to Gwinnett from the Chicago Blackhawks this weekend. Only goaltender Joe Fallon wasn't dressed. All four players had seen time in Fresno, so Pyle went with the theory that they'd have more chemistry together than apart.
Atlanta Thrashers' prospect Matt Siddall was on the right wing with center Adam Hobson and left wing Adam Berti up front. Jean-Claude Swayer and Brennan Turner were out as a defensive pair.
Only Turner isn't under a Blackhawks' contract; he was assigned by Rockford of the AHL.
Missing from the roster were three players, traded to teams out West on Sunday. Forward Bruce Graham went to Bakersfield, while defensemen Jim Jorgensen and Preston Briggs were both dealt to Stockton - all for future considerations.
Pyle kept the former Fresno guys, who hadn't played since before Christmas, together throughout the game.
"They played fine," Pyle said of the recent additions. "I feel sorry for them, coming in with some of the efforts we had here in this locker room.
"We have no urgency until we get behind."
The new lineup didn't keep Gwinnett (12-14-4) from an all-too-familiar start. Mississippi (14-15-3) scored first and took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
An unguarded Mike Berry was at the post to collect a carom off the back dasher and lift it home at 10:46.
Forty-seven seconds later, former Sea Wolf Cava evened the score. Cava got a cross-ice feed from Brad Schell and buried his shot from the left face-off circle at 11:33.
Mississippi was ahead again when Mark Rooneem cruised in on a breakaway. Goaltender Josh Johnson went for a poke check and missed. He twisted around to try and grab the rolling puck, but just ended up in the net with it at 13:59.
The Gladiators were denied by goalie Ryan Munce on several good chances at the end of the first and earned an extended 5-on-3 power play.
The two-man advantage carried over into the second period. That opportunity fell by the wayside and the Sea Wolves extended their lead with a crisp passing play that Jason Tejchma capped with his ninth goal of the season at 8:44.
The bounces were not going in Gwinnett's favor as twice Munce was caught out of his crease and the Gladiators couldn't capitalize.
But Jordan Fox cut the deficit to 3-2 with an impressive shot at 13:04.
Fox sliced into the zone, his eyes on the net. He got to the bottom of the circle and put a rising shot through the defender's legs. Fox beat Munce on the short side top shelf, over the screened goalie's glove for his team-leading 13th tally of the season.
Munce was again screened on the game-tying goal by Scott Marchesi. Siddall had a shot blocked and the puck kicked to Marchesi in the high slot. The defenseman buried his chance to tie it up at 4:35 of the third period.
But the Gladiators never could wrest the lead away and the Sea Wolves are now three points ahead of Gwinnett in the South Division.
"We shoot ourselves in the foot," Pyle said. "We get hooped on a one-on-one, which ends up causing a goal. We shoot the puck over the glass late in the game. With five minutes left, you can't do that. I'm not swinging my stick to take a penalty. Those are the things you just don't (expletive) do.
"Bottom line, if you're going to win, those are the mistakes you can't make. And by guys that can't make them."
SideBar: SEA WOLVES 4, GLADIATORS 3
Mississippi 2 1 1 - 4
Gwinnett 1 1 0 - 3
First period - Scoring: 1, Mississippi, Berry 6 (Lawrence, Parent), 10:46. 2, Gwinnett, Cava 4 (Kaleniecki, Schell), 11:33. 3, Mississippi, Rooneem 6 (Tejchma, Menei), 13:59. Penalties: Mississippi 3 for 6:00.
Second period - Scoring: 4, Mississippi, Tejchma 9 (Berry, Menei), 8:44. 5, Gwinnett, Fox 13 (Siddall, Turner), 13:04. Penalties: Mississippi 3 for 6:00; Gwinnett 2 for 4:00.
Third period - Scoring: 6, Gwinnett, Marchesi 5 (Siddall, Turner), 4:35. 7, Mississippi, Jackson 1 (Peto, Menei), pp, 16:40. Penalties: Mississippi 2 for 4:00; Gwinnett 3 for 6:00.
Power-play opportunities - Mississippi 1 for 5; Gwinnett 0 for 8.
Shots on goal - Mississippi 8-12-9-29; Gwinnett 17-11-15-43.
Goaltenders - Munce, Mississippi 10-9-0 (shots 43-saves 40); Johnson, Gwinnett 9-7-1 (shots 29-saves 25).
Attendance - 4,398. Three stars - 1, Jackson (MIS); 2, Tejchma (MIS); 3, Turner (GWT).