DULUTH All those shots and it was won on the last one.
The Gwinnett Gladiators fired 60 shots on goal and still needed Pat Galivan's last-minute effort to beat the Charlotte Checkers 5-4 on Saturday night.
Gladiators 5, Checkers 4
What happened: Gwinnett scored first and never trailed, but Charlotte tied the game four times, including with 2:13 to go in regulation. It was a goal at 19:33 by Pat Galivan that finally secured the win for the Gladiators, who snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Boiling over: In the second of four straight games against each other, there was plenty of emotion showing. Pushing and shoving ensued after nearly every scrum in front of both nets, several time boiling over into full-blown fights. One of those featured Jason Lawrence, who went toe-to-toe with former teammate Kenny Roche in the second period. Lawrence was traded from Charlotte on Thursday and has played with a lot of tenacity in both games since.
Pivotal moment: Tom Zanoski scored 10 seconds into the game, catching everyone unawares. Gwinnett's leading scorer came from behind the net and tucked the puck under Ryan Munce.
Penalty shot: Tied 1-1 midway through the first period, the Gladiators got a chance to take the lead again on a short-handed breakaway. Charlotte failed to hold the zone at the point and Brian Kaufman came in ahead of the scrambling defenders. He was taken out before he could get the puck on net and awarded a penalty shot at 12:01. Kaufman cruised in one-on-one with Munce and fired his shot into the goalie's pads.
Shoot em up: After being berated by head coach Jeff Pyle for not shooting the puck enough during a 6-3 loss to Charlotte on Thursday, the Gladiators set a new season benchmark for shots in a period with 23 in the first and then surpassed that with 26 in the second.
On deck: Gwinnett makes a quick turnaround and heads to Charlotte for a 2 p.m. game today. The two teams then wrap up a set of four straight meetings Wednesday in Charlotte.
Charlotte, which defeated Gwinnett rather handily Thursday, tied the game with slightly more than two minutes to go in regulation.
But Galivan didn't give up. He charged through the neutral zone and got the puck deep. At the end of a long shift, Galivan stayed with the play and got open in the high slot with time running down.
"I got it deep and it ran up the wall," Galivan said. "(Matt) Siddall and (Adam) Berti battled on the wall and got me the loose puck. I picked it up and just tried to get it to the net."
Galivan ripped a wrister past Ryan Munce just inside the post with 27 seconds remaining and brought a crowd of 4,116 to its feet at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
"I looked to see what was out there," Galivan said. "All I had was a shot, so I took it."
That shot handed Charlotte its first regulation loss in eight games and was the 60th of the night.
"It was a lot of fun," Galivan said. "We wanted to come back after Thursday's game and having lost the last two. We really wanted to bear down and get the win because we're battling for first place with these guys and hopefully we can get the next two (in Charlotte)."
After passing up a lot of scoring chances in Thursday's loss, the Gladiators were terrors in the offensive zone and didn't miss out on many opportunities Saturday. That pleased head coach Jeff Pyle. What didn't please him was the mistakes on the defensive side.
"We had enough opportunities, but we give away goals," Pyle said. "Guys (screwing) off outside of the zone, worried about points. It's about playing defense. Obviously we get enough shots. There's no doubt. And we're getting shots by working out (butts) off, then we turn around and don't play defense.
"It's so frustrating because we work hard. We do a lot of things well. But the things that are really, really important with a lead, we don't do."
Gwinnett got its first lead 10 seconds into the game and then took a 2-1 lead at 19:59 of the first.
Winning the opening draw, Gwinnett rushed into the Checkers' zone. Tom Zanoski came around from behind the net and tucked a shot under Munce, surprising nearly everyone in the building.
It was a new team record for fastest goal, breaking Brad Schell's old mark of 12 seconds which coincidentally came against Munce when the netminder was with Mississippi.
The Gladiators relinquished the lead on a power-play goal at 3:53, but got it back by showing some tenacity as the period wound down.
Siddall forced a face-off in Charlotte's zone by charging down the ice on an odd-man rush. His shot was fielded cleanly by Munce, but Gwinnett won the ensuing draw with 6.6 seconds to go.
Pounding away at Munce, Siddall banged home his own rebound 0.2 seconds before the final horn sounded.
The Gladiators seemed to be taking seriously Pyle's complaints about passing up scoring chances after the 6-3 loss to Charlotte here Thursday.
Gwinnett set a new season record for shots in a period with 23, then exceeded that mark in the second period.
"I think we did a real good job of throwing every chance we had to the net," Galivan said. "There were just a few breakdowns here and there and they capitalized."
The Checkers tied it again on the power play at 7:37 of the second period.
"We don't understand the game," Pyle said. "This is pro hockey, it's not college anymore. We don't have four lines. You have 10 to 12 players playing all the time. A lot of power play and penalty kill, so you have to play smart.
"(Charlotte) offensively is a good team. The first goal, we're trying to leave the zone early. Our forward stays back, nothing happens. The second one, we get a breakaway and then we give them a breakaway. That's ridiculously stupid. I love the energy. I love the effort. But these guys think that they're under contract and will go to (AHL) Chicago next year. They are going to die in this league."
The Gladiators went back in front, 3-2, by converting on their first power play chance of the game less than two minutes later. A booming shot from the blue line by Drew Paris set up a scramble in the crease. A rebound kicked to Berti on the far side and Berti adroitly scooped a backhanded shot high into the open net at 9:28.
Gwinnett kept firing away and had a staggering 49-18 shot advantage after 40 minutes.
It remained a 3-2 margin though, in part because of some impressive glove work by Munce. The biggest of the bunch came with 1:09 left in the second period. Jason Lawrence, who just came over in a trade from Charlotte, got a sweet feed and was alone in the slot. Munce robbed him on a quick shot from point-blank range that seemed destined for the back of the net.
Play was focused in Gwinnett's end from the start of the third period and the Checkers capitalized on the pressure to get even 3-3 at 10:22. Goalie David Brown made an excellent first save, but was toppled as David Marshall was shoved onto him. Julien Brouillette scored on the rebound and the goal stood despite Brown's vehement objections.
Gwinnett once more forged a one-goal lead with a power-play tally by Sam Roberts at 12:44.
Charlotte once more had an answer, tying it as its own power play expired with 2:13 left in regulation. But that just set it up for Galivan's heroics.
"It's a good win and we fought back," Pyle said. "But I've got to tune some guys in. How hard we play, we deserve much better than what we get sometimes."