The last thing the Augusta Lynx needed at this point of the season was to blow a critical game they easily should have won.
It happened Friday night.
The Toledo Storm thundered back from a four-goal deficit in the final 13 minutes of regulation and handed Augusta a heartbreaking 6-5 loss in a shootout at James Brown Arena.
Toledo's Nick Parillo scored two third-period goals and beat Augusta rookie goaltender Dave McKee in the fourth round of the shootout for the game-winner. The Storm won the shootout 2-1 when Mike Erickson and Brian Passmore failed to answer in the last two rounds.
In the first meeting between the teams, Augusta scored the game's first two goals and added three in the second period to take a 5-1 lead.
But Toledo scored four times in the third period, including three goals in the final 6:54 to rob the Lynx.
The Lynx (30-21-3) lost ground to third-place Gwinnett, which is now three points ahead in the ECHL's South Division standings.
After an all-night bus trip, Augusta will take on second-place Florida tonight and Tuesday.
Passmore and Erickson each scored twice, and McKee played well for 45 minutes for Augusta.
But the Storm (27-21-1) got a pair of goals from Chris Blight and the game-tying score from Mike Walsh with 75 seconds left in regulation.
Toledo has won four of five.
The teams came out of the locker rooms flying and produced an offense-laden first period that saw the Lynx take a 2-0 lead.
Passmore beat Toledo goaltender Ervins Mustukovs between the pads for a power-play goal just 4:07 into the contest with assists from Shane Hynes and Sean Blanchard.
Sixty-eight seconds later, Erickson skated in on Mustukovs and flipped a wrister high into the net for the two-goal cushion.
Toledo's Blight took advantage of a bad Lynx turnover and scored just 18 seconds into the second period to make it 2-1.
Blanchard re-energized the Lynx five minutes later. He took an uncalled high stick to the face, which opened up a cut, and when he returned to the ice, he promptly engaged Nick Parillo in a fight.
Blanchard went to the locker room for stitches, but his tussle seemed to wake up the arena and the Lynx. Augusta scored 19 seconds later and twice more in the period to make the score 5-1 by the time Blanchard returned to the bench.
Passmore and Erickson each recorded their second goals, and Aaron Slattengren perfectly deflected a Jason Platt shot in for the four-goal cushion.
Blight picked up his second goal with 12:21 left in the third period on a good wrister past McKee to make it 5-2.
Parillo added a pair of goals, with 6:54 and 2:33 remaining, to cut it to 5-4, and Walsh capped Toledo's momentous comeback with the game-tying score with 75 seconds remaining.
NOTES: F Garrett Bembridge, who has 28 points in 27 games for Augusta, was recalled to affiliate Portland of the AHL before Friday's game. ... The Lynx ceremoniously accepted the Peach Cup at the first-period intermission for defeating Gwinnett in the in-state rivalry series. Augusta has won six of eight against the Gladiators.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com