Toledo goaltender Jake Paterson knocks the shot of Tulsa’s Adam Pleskach away during Sunday’s game at the Huntington Center. Paterson finished with 27 saves. BLADE photos/AMY E. VOIGT
Already playing without their captain, the Walleye lost their leading scorer early in Sunday’s physical game against Tulsa and still prevailed in overtime.
Toledo (46-14-3) won its fifth game in a row when Tylor Spink scored the game winner 1:15 into the extra period as the Walleye outlasted the Oilers 3-2.
Captain Alden Hirschfeld did not play after sustaining an injury in Saturday's 4-3 victory against Tulsa. Rookie Tyson Spink, who had a team-leading 33 goals and 72 points, left this game with a muscle strain in the first period.
IN PICTURES: Walleye 3, Tulsa 2
But Shane Berschbach finished with two assists, and Zach Nastasiuk and newcomer Landon Oslanski scored. The Walleye also twice led by a goal before the Oilers rallied to tie it. Toledo surrendered a tying goal with 4:45 left in regulation.
“I liked the way our guys battled being short-handed,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “Our guys played a gritty game. The last two nights shows our team character and the willingness to step up for teammates.”
Spink ended it with a blistering shot as Toledo was on the power play.
“It was huge,” Spink said. “We went down a couple guys at the start of the game. But the resiliency from this group was tremendous. We handled adversity tonight, and we got two points.”
With just nine games left in the regular season, the Walleye continued to solidify their position atop the overall ECHL standings with 95 points. They lead Colorado by four points.
Walleye goalie Jake Paterson (31-11-2) finished with 27 saves. Paterson, who leads the ECHL in wins, stopped Shawn Bates on a penalty shot late in the second after Bates was hooked on a solo breakaway by Mathew Santos.
The game was chippy before a crowd of 6,217 at the Huntington Center. There were 46 penalty minutes called, with 32 on Tulsa and two fights. Toledo’s Parker Reno and J.P. LaFontaine got into scuffles.
“This shows our guys are willing and have team toughness,” Watson said.
LaFontaine landed several big blows during a fight with Christophe Lalancette in the second. Reno got into in a brief fight with Kale Kessy, who fought three times Saturday, in the second.
Nastasiuk scored with 14:13 left in regulation for a 2-1 lead. But Tulsa’s Alexandre Ranger tied it again with 4:45 to go.
Oslanski, who was acquired in a trade March 7, scored his first goal in a Walleye uniform 30 seconds into the second. Oslanski scored on Toledo’s first shot of the period on assists from Berschbach and Reno.
Tulsa then tied it on a goal by Dennis Brown 4:27 into the third.
Just 1:20 later, Nastasiuk showed great patience to put Toledo back up. Evan Rankin connected with Nastasiuk, who got in alone on Tulsa goalie P.J. Musico, who had 22 saves. Nastasiuk then waited before scoring on a backhander.
Berschbach now has 201 points in his Walleye career with 56 goals and 145 assists. He also continues to build on his single-season assist record with 54.
“I’m playing with great players, and system-wise we’re just gelling,” Berschbach said. “I may have gotten off to a slower start at beginning of the year. But we’re playing our best hockey right now and that’s what we want heading into the playoffs.”
Berschbach almost ended it early in overtime after he used his speed to get around a defenseman to create a solo breakaway. But he was stopped as he got in alone. However, it led to the Toledo power play and Spink’s game winner. It was Spink’s 23rd of the season.
“We took a timeout and [assistant coach Andy Delmore] drew up a great game plan, and had the right guys on the ice and made it happen,” Watson said.
Berschbach said the line was focused on just getting pucks to the net in the extra period.
“We weren't being too cute,” he said. “I just threw it at the net and it went off someone and right to Spink. Dirty goals get wins though.”
Hirschfeld, who suffered a lower-body injury Saturday, was placed on reserve and is scheduled to undergo an MRI today. Forward Alex Globke was activated from the injured reserve list.
Watson said Tyson Spink has “a standard muscle issue and won’t be out of the lineup Friday night.” After posting a goal and an assist Saturday, he is just two points shy of tying Tyler Barnes for most points in a single season (74). He also is just three goals short of tying Kyle Bonis for most goals in a season (36).
“He’ll be right back in. He just couldn’t finish the game,” Watson said.
The Walleye, who lead the Western Conference, continue their current seven-game homestand with three games next weekend. Toledo hosts Florida on Friday and Saturday before Norfolk comes to town Sunday. Florida (41-16-5) has 87 points and leads the Eastern Conference.
“We’re very confident here inside the Huntington Center,” said Watson, whose team improved to 23-5-2 at home. “We have guys banged up, so we’ll have to manage that for when Friday rolls around.”