DULUTH — A two-goal lead evaporated in less than five minutes and the Gwinnett Gladiators lost 3-2 to North Division leading Cincinnati on Sunday.
It was the first time all season that Gwinnett lost in regulation when leading after two periods. The Gladiators were 18-0-1-0 in that situation before collapsing against the Cyclones. Up 2-0 after nearly 50 minutes of play, they suffered a third-period meltdown in front of 4,515 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center and had a five-game winning streak snapped.
The Cyclones started carving away at the lead at 9:31 of the third when Dan Eves got a centering feed and lifted a backhander over goalie Louis Domingue.
Cincinnati defenseman Josh McFadden tied it on an unassisted tally that slipped through Domingue's legs at 12:25.
The Cyclones' surge continued with Trevor Lewis' game-winning goal just over a minute later on the power play at 13:36.
Playing their fourth game in five days, Gwinnett (31-19-2-1, 65 points) started well, but just couldn't finish it out.
Reinserted on the top power play unit, Jon Awe did what he's always done best — lower the boom from the blue line.
Just 16 seconds into Gwinnett's second power-play chance, defenseman Ryan Donald faked a shot and shoveled it over to Awe on the opposite point. Awe unloaded, buried the puck in the back of the net and raised both arms in celebration of a 1-0 lead at 10:59 of the first period.
The Gladiators pushed their advantage to 2-0 with the only goal of the second period on an excellent passing play.
Rolling three wide as they crossed the blue line, Andy Brandt was along the boards and flicked it inside to Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who in turn further stretched the coverage by going to Doug Jones near the outside face-off circle. Jones, just returned from and AHL callup in time for Sunday's game, capped the sequence by rifling a snap shot past goalie Brian Foster at 13:06.
Gwinnett was still buzzing around the Cyclones' net as the second period came to a close and had several premium chances to extend their lead foiled by Foster. The Florida Panthers' prospect stood tall between the pipes and gave his team a chance to come storming back in the third.