Changes are made, yet nothing seems to change.
And so it goes for the Augusta Lynx, who haven't won a game in nearly three weeks. Judging by Friday's 4-3 loss to the Greensboro Generals, there are few reasons to believe that's about to change, either.
Worst of all for the Lynx, they controlled most of the contest. They played solid enough in their own end. They dominated time of possession. They finished their checks. They managed a ton of quality scoring chances against Generals goalie Bujar Amidovski. Yet they still found a way to fall apart.
"We're inventing ways to lose now," said Lynx coach Jim Burton, whose team outshot the Generals 42-20, including a 20-5 margin in the final period. "It's starting to get confusing. All you can do is take a step back and try to figure out what the real problem is."
After blowing an early lead, the Lynx rallied twice to tie. Then came the late-game collapse that has been their signature move of late. Generals leading scorer Vlad Serov netted his 14th goal of the season with 5:07 left in the contest, saddling the Lynx with a loss that extended their winless streak to eight games (0-6-2).
David Whitworth had a goal and two assists, while Rob Sandrock and Craig Stahl also had goals for the resurgent Generals (11-12-2), who beat the Lynx for the second time in a row and picked up their fifth victory in six contests.
Newly acquired center Jeff Bes did his part, notching a pair of assists in his first game with the Lynx since arriving from Mississippi in a trade earlier this week.
But just as Burton figured he'd found the answer to his club's scoring problems with Bes, he now has a goaltending dilemma to add to his laundry list of woes.
A month ago, Burton hoped former National Hockey League goalie Zac Bierk was the answer in the net after Judd Lambert was lost to a season-ending knee injury.
But in three ECHL starts, Bierk hasn't panned out. He surrendered a pair of soft first-period goals that gave the Generals a 2-1 lead, and Burton yanked the Phoenix Coyotes prospect in favor of Gregg Naumenko.
After the game, Burton informed Bierk he was being relegated to the seven-day injured reserve list. Cris Classen will be activated from injured reserve today and is scheduled to start tonight on the road against Greenville.
"He faced five shots in the first period; five shots, and you'd think he could stop five shots," Burton said. "That's what he gets paid to do. He's not getting the job done, and when Classy was in there for us, he did get the job done. All Classy's done is work hard and battle for us. He's earned a chance to try and get this team back on the right track."
By the time Naumenko took over, too much damage already had been done. The Generals capitalized twice on a four-minute power play in the first period on goals by Sandrock and Stahl. Neither of them were unstoppable, which led to Bierk's early exit.
"It's the coach's decision," said Bierk, who has given up 11 goals on 60 shots this season. "I'm not sure why I'm not playing well. That's something I have to try and figure out quickly."
The Lynx (11-11-5) responded to the goaltending switch at 7:50 of the second period on a power play, as Wes Swinson unleashed a bomb from the right point that beat Amidovski to tie the game 2-2. They were back in business for all of 37 seconds. A turnover at the blue line led to Whitworth's fifth goal of the year, giving the Generals a 3-2 lead.
Martin Lapointe tied it at 3 with his eighth goal of the year at 8:46 of the third period, but the Generals finished the job on Serov's goal with time winding down.
Even though the season is just two months old, the Lynx know time quickly is winding down on their hopes of getting back into the hunt in the Southeast Division race.
"We can't keep going like this much longer," defenseman David Wilkie said. "We're running out of time. This division is too tough. There are too many good teams ahead of us right now for us to keep this up."
Generals 4, Lynx 3
Star of the game: Generals center David Whitworth scored his fifth goal of the season and added two assists.
Key play: With 5:07 left in the contest and the score tied at 3, Generals leading scorer Vlad Serov scored his 14th goal this season to lift Greensboro to its fifth win in six games.
Plus: Center Jeff Bes, the ECHL's second-leading scorer last season who was acquired by the Lynx in a trade from Mississippi on Tuesday, notched a pair of assists in his Augusta debut.
Minus: Former NHL goalie Zac Bierk gave up two goals on five shots in the first period and was pulled by coach Jim Burton.
Ice capades: The "Dodge Different" blimp went flat during the second intermission, plummeting into the stands after a malfunction.
Up next: The Lynx travel to face the Greenville Grrrowl tonight before returning home for a 4:05 p.m. Sunday match vs. the Charlotte Checkers.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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