DULUTH - All the energy, all the promise the Gwinnett Gladiators had in their season opening win was missing in the rematch with Wheeling less than 24 hours later.
The Nailers picked up their first win of the season by capitalizing on sloppy play and departed Gwinnett with a 3-1 victory Sunday.
A defense that was so stout Saturday kept turning the puck over and Wheeling also got an excellent performance from goalie Jordan Parise. The Nailers doubled their shot total from one game to the next and Parise stopped 33 of 34 shots.
"I told the boys, you're going to win some games, you're going to lose some games," Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. "We're two games in. You learn a lot from losing. But we didn't deserve that game. We didn't take control of it.
"Our best players weren't our best players. They've got to step up. They don't have to do all the scoring, but they have to do something. And we did nothing. Our younger guys tonight were probably our better guys. But that's a good sign."
The first period featured as many fights as goals - and were equally split.
Rookie Tim Miller fought two Nailers, first beating up Cliff Loya 2:23 into the game and then getting taken down by Ryan Schnell with about the same amount of time left in the period.
Between those two bouts, Wheeling scored on a giveaway in the slot.
"We turned it over all over the place," Pyle said. "We must have had 30 turnovers tonight. And all that does it stop any momentum that you may have. We didn't support the puck real well. I didn't think we communicated that well. Our power play was average at best. We didn't have a lot of guys working together."
Gwinnett's only goal of the game came on a 5-on-3 power play at 18:39 of the first period.
Parise was called for holding the stick and 20 seconds later Loya cross checked Scott Mifsud in the crease.
Working with the two-man advantage, Scott Marchesi and Brad Schell took up position at the top of the circles. They passed back and forth, waiting for an opening. They got one when Schell dished it to Marchesi and the defenseman unloaded a slap shot that hit the post and tucked up under the crossbar at 18:39.
Wheeling regained the lead on an ugly goal at 14:22 of the second period. Gwinnett goalie Josh Johnson pounced on the puck near the post, but didn't cover it. In the ensuing scramble, the puck skittered through the crease to Thomas Beauregard, who had a wide-open net to shoot at.
The Nailers closed the door with a power-play goal from former Atlanta Thrashers' prospect Jimmy Sharrow at 8:42 of the third.
"When we take, I don't know, eight or nine penalties, you're going to get scored on at some point," Pyle said. "And stupid penalties. Retaliation, tripping, hits from behind, just dumb penalties.
"And I thought Wheeling played much better. They were doing the little things well. They limited their turnovers. (Saturday) night they were turning it over and taking penalties and that gave us energy. Tonight we did that to them."