ESTERO, Fla. - The Gwinnett Gladiators got goals from Brandon Kaleniecki and Jeff Mason, but it wasn't enough to get them past the Florida Everblades in a 4-2 loss Tuesday at the Germain Arena.
Gwinnett is once again in precarious position as it attempts to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in team history.
The Gladiators (30-33-6) remain fractionally ahead of Mississippi for the South Division's final postseason berth. They have three games left in the season - tonight against Florida, Friday at home against South Carolina and the finale Saturday in Charlotte.
Gwinnett, which scored first against top-ranked Florida on Tuesday, needs 11/2 wins to clinch a playoff spot.
Kaleniecki gave the Gladiators a 1-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season. Parked on the doorstep, Kaleniecki jammed the puck past netminder David Leggio from point-blank range for the power-play goal at 17:21 of the first period.
But Florida answered just 36 seconds later. Kevin Baker, the ECHL's leading scorer, rolled the puck through the legs of Gwinnett netminder Joe Fallon. Andrew Sweetland and former Gladiator Milan Gajic had the assists.
Gajic then gave the Everblades a 2-1 lead 5:52 into the second period.
A.J. Thelen found Gajic behind the Gladiators defense and set up a breakaway. Gajic walked in untouched on Fallon.
Mason answered for the Gladiators on the power play at 14:09 of the second. But that was all the scoring Gwinnett could muster and Florida earned its 46th win of the season.
SideBar: EVERBLADES 4, GLADIATORS 2
First Period -1, Gwinnett, Kaleniecki 11 (Zanoski, Berti), 17:21 (pp). 2, Florida, Baker 54 (Sweetland, Gajic), 17:57. Penalties - Carlson Fla (elbowing), 5:12; Zanoski Gwt (interference), 13:16; Zanon Fla (charging), 15:39.
Second Period - 3, Florida, Gajic 8 (Thelen, Metcalf), 5:52. 4, Gwinnett, Mason 14 (Bateman, Southern), 14:09 (pp). Penalties - Bateman Gwt (roughing), 6:33; Carlson Fla (hooking), 12:06; Lee Fla (hooking), 12:57; Reich Fla (high-sticking), 15:07.
Third Period - 5, Florida, Lee 13 (Carlson, McJannet), 5:37. 6, Florida, Baker 55 (Sweetland, Thelen), 12:23 (pp). Penalties - Metcalf Fla (hooking), 0:25; Fox Gwt (kneeing), 1:20; Turner Gwt (holding), 6:17; Sullivan Gwt (elbowing), 11:00; Turner Gwt (tripping), 17:15; Brandt Gwt (fighting major), 18:53; Reich Fla (roughing, fighting major), 18:53.
Shots on Goal - Gwinnett 14-11-6-31. Florida 10-7-10-27.
Power-play opportunities - Gwinnett 2 of 7; Florida 1 of 6.
Goalies - Gwinnett, Fallon 17-11-1-1 (27 shots-23 saves). Florida, Leggio 24-7-2-1 (31 shots-29 saves).