Gwinnett Gladiators’ forward Derek Nesbitt gets a shot on net as Greenville’s T. J. Reynolds and goaltender Nic Riopel defend during their game Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH — Ryan Garbutt served his 10-minute misconduct.
Then he served up a pair of goals and the Gwinnett Gladiators snapped a two-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over Greenville before a crowd of 9,663 on Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. They also avenged a road loss to Greenville from a night earlier.
Gladiators 5, Warriors 3
What happened: Turnabout being fair play, Gwinnett got down 1-0 and then rallied with three straight goals to snap a two-game losing streak. The Gladiators had the first goal Friday night in Greenville, only to watch the Warriors come back and win. Ryan Garbutt had a pair of goals and assisted on two others. Derek Nesbitt, second in the ECHL in total points, had a goal and an assist for Gwinnett.
R for robbery: Greenville goalie Nic Riopel, a draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009, stonewalled the Gladiators for a second straight night. Just in the first period, Riopel had two fantastic saves from point-blank range. He stymied Garbutt on an outstanding scoring chance at 4:09 and flashed the glove to rob Tim Miller on a lightning shot during a power play minutes later.
Early injury: The Warriors’ winger Matt Schepke took a hard hit along the boards just 2:40 into the game and immediately motioned to his bench that he needed help. The training staff and Gwinnett’s doctor, Brian Morgan, quickly attended the player and he was eventually assisted off the ice with a broken arm.
Scratches: Rookie defenseman Cody Brookwell and forward Matt Francis were not in the lineup Saturday. It was the first game Francis has missed this season.
Next: The Gladiators (6-2-2) and Warriors (4-2-1) play for a third straight day with a 4 p.m. game today at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Garbutt, who was invited to the Atlanta Thrashers prospect development camp this summer and was in AHL training camp with Chicago, ran his goal total to eight and assisted on two more. Derek Nesbitt, second in the ECHL in points, had a goal and an assist for the division-leading Gladiators.
“I thought we played pretty hard,” Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle said. “We came from behind, had a great second period and the power play kicked in.
“It was a big game. We wanted a little revenge from yesterday when we didn’t play that well. We still have some little things we have to iron out, but bottom line, it was a good effort.”
Greenville took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal that was, in part, a function of poor officiating. The Gladiators were killing a penalty and had control of the puck in Greenville’s zone.
First referee Jarrod Ragusin didn’t catch the trip on Michael Forney. Then Garbutt dove to poke at the puck in neutral and the skate from a Greenville player caught him in the face.
“It wasn’t that it was necessarily a penalty, but he blew the whistle when they had a guy down (earlier in the game),” Garbutt said.
With Garbutt on his knees, Justin Bowers capitalized on the advantage to score a pretty goal. He danced in uncontested and pegged the far top corner with a snappy shot at 9:14.
Incensed, Garbutt threw his stick into the boards. Ragusin gave him a 10-minute misconduct for it.
Sitting in the penalty box, Garbutt had time to fume. And to regather himself since it stretched into 30 minutes with the intermission.
“It kind of lets you rest up and focus on the rest of the game,” he said.
Garbutt and his linemates turned up the heat in the second.
They scored a pair of power-play goals 31⁄2 minutes apart to take their first lead of the game. Both came courtesy of penalties called on Greenville’s defenseman Sam Klassen.
First Nesbitt, the team’s leading scorer who quarterbacks the top power-play unit, cruised along the wall and stepped into a shot from the top of the circle. Garbutt, camped on the doorstep, tipped the shot past goalie Nic Riopel at 4:04.
“We’ve had a good power play all year and this was our chance to jump on it, set it up and get the puck to the net,” Garbutt said.
Nesbitt was cross-checked by Klassen a few minutes later and Gwinnett again cashed in on the chance.
Cycling on the power play, Garbutt worked it from the corner to Danick Paquette. The rookie forward slid a no-look backhanded pass through the crease. Nesbitt reached out and flung a shot so powerful it ricochetted back out of the net almost as fast as it entered at 7:32.
“That’s one guy you want to see with the puck on his stick,” Garbutt said. “He’s always going to put it in the back of the net and he shelved it.”
Garbutt scored his second goal, even more impressive than the first, at 16:03. Streaking toward the net, Garbutt got a pass from Michael Forney on the left wing. The puck bounced up and Garbutt got his stick on it in mid-air, deflecting another shot past Riopel.
“That was a sick deflection,” Pyle said.
For a moment early in the third it looked like the Gladiators’ Tim Miller had tipped another power-play goal past Riopel. But Ragusin ruled that Miller, redirecting a shot from the blue line by Sam Roberts, played the puck with a high stick and it remained 3-1.
Greenville closed the gap to 3-2 at 4:29 on Bowers’ second goal. He swept a wrap-around shot inside the post before a reaching Chris Carrozzi could get to it.
Gwinnett converted on its power play for the third time to regain some breathing room at 10:22. Forney put a shot on net and the long stick of Paul Flache poked it home with a crowd gathering on top of the crease.
The Gladiators pushed the lead to 5-2 at 13:21 when Garbutt found Dan Kissel in the slot and Kissel beat Riopel.
The margin was short-lived — Greenville’s T.J. Reynolds made it 5-3 at 14:04 — but Gwinnett gutted out the next six minutes for the win.