Greenville's netminder Nathan Lieuwen stonewalls Gwinnett's Casey Pierro-Zabotel in Gwinnett's matinee game on Monday afternoon. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
DULUTH — Greenville scored 12 seconds into the game and things didn't improve for the Gwinnett Gladiators.
A vociferous holiday matinee crowd of 6,571 had little to cheer about on Monday.
The Gladiators got down a quick goal, 14 seconds in, to Greenville on Saturday and rallied to win in a shootout.
There was no such comeback this time.
The Road Warriors scored twice more in the first period and walked away with a 4-1 win.
Greenville (26-14-2-2) now owns a two-point lead over Gwinnett (26-16-1-1) atop the South Division standings. The Gladiators have lost four of their last five games, but most get the rest of this week to regroup after playing seven games in 10 days. The only ones who don't are Colorado-bound All-Stars Casey Pierro-Zabotel and goalie Mike Lee.
“It's going to be good for us to have a couple days off,” said defenseman Sacha Guimond, playing in just his third game for Gwinnett and the lone goal-scorer. “We're a bunch of new guys and we need to get to know each other more."
The midday start time didn't seem to affect the Road Warriors. They scored on their first shift and doubled that lead at 6:55 of the first. Marc-Olivier Vallerand took a wrister from well above the circles and put it top shelf.
The lead swelled to 3-0 on a quick-strike power-play goal from Bretton Cameron at 11:56. It came nine seconds into the man advantage and made a Gwinnett rally unlikely.
The Gladiators have won just twice this season when trailing after the first period and only once have come back from a three-goal deficit.
“The first period kind of killed us,” said Guimond, assigned from the AHL late last week after having his rights traded to Gwinnett from ECHL San Francisco. “After that, I think we played well. But we didn't put the puck in the net, so it's a tough night.”
A stretch pass through all of the neutral zone sprung Jeremy Gouchie on a breakaway and he went around goalie Louis Domingue, pushing the Greenville lead to 4-0 at 11:56 of the second period.
Gwinnett finally got on the board one minute later, scoring on the power play.
Guimond tapped his stick on the ice, calling for a pass at the point. Justin Bowers, his teammate in San Francisco, snapped the puck to him and Guimond teed off on a big slap shot that found its way through some traffic to beat 6-foot-5 goalie Nathan Lieuwen at 12:57.
Domingue made an amazing save less than a minute later, diving back to smother a wrap-around try, but the Gladiators continued to lack puck luck. After missing two open-net opportunities in the first period, they had another go by the wayside in the second and clanged a prime power-play chance off the iron.
“You squeeze the stick a little bit and so we've got to work on that and don't be nervous if we are down one goal, two goals, three goals,” Guimond said. “It doesn't matter. You just have to keep working hard and put the puck on the net.”