Kalamazoo’s Cam Darcy, right, celebrates a goal against Toledo during the Wings’ victory on Wednesday night. KALAMAZOO WINGS/ALLIE LOCHART
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In a lightning-quick span of 16 seconds, the Walleye’s opening-round playoff series with Kalamazoo suddenly became uncomfortably tight for Toledo despite a late comeback bid.
The Wings scored four goals in the opening period in Game 4 of the Central Division semifinals, including consecutive goals 16 seconds apart. Kalamazoo went on to drop the Walleye 8-5 on Wednesday night to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
The top-seeded Walleye, who have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, led 2-0 in the series. But No. 4-seeded Kalamazoo responded with wins at Wings Event Center in Games 3 and 4.
The Walleye trailed 5-1 in the second period and 6-2 after two periods, but they scored three consecutive goals in the third to pull within one. Toledo scored two goals in the first seven minutes of the third period to pull within two goals. Defenseman Landon Oslanski then scored with 8 minutes, 58 seconds left to make it 6-5.
IN PICTURES: Toledo loses Game 4 at Kalamazoo
HIGHLIGHTS: Kalamazoo takes Game 4
But Toledo’s comeback fell short when Josh Pitt scored for Kalamazoo with 5:58 left. Pitt then scored his third goal with an empty netter with 1:23 to go before an announced crowd of 1,272.
Game 5 is scheduled for Friday at 7:35 p.m. at the Huntington Center.
“We were turning pucks over, and when they get opportunities to score, they jumped on us,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “They’re capitalizing on all our mistakes and putting a lot of pressure on us.”
Tylor Spink and Tyson Spink each had a goal and two assists. Kyle Bonis remained red hot with his team-high fifth goal of the series. Oslanski and Alex Globke also scored.
But Walleye goalie Jake Paterson was replaced by Jeff Lerg with 6:58 left in the first period after yielding four goals on 11 shots. Kalamazoo scored two goals on its first five shots to take a 2-0 lead at 8:08.
Wings coach Nick Bootland said he was pleased with the first half of the game. But Toledo outshot the Wings 29-15 in the final two periods and 36-31 overall.
“I’m pretty picky so I wasn’t happy with the last period and a half,” Bootland said.
“We started to stray from what made us successful. They responded. They’re a great hockey team that is going to find a way because of the offense they have throughout their lineup. It’s tough to stop them when they get rolling.”
The Walleye got on the board when Tyson Spink scored a power-play goal with 9:56 left in the first.
But Kalamazoo grabbed a 3-1 lead as Cam Darcy scored after a bad turnover. The Wings then scored just moments after the ensuing faceoff as Scott Henegar scored on a long slap shot for an instant 4-1 lead with just under seven minutes to go in the opening period.
Watson then replaced Paterson with Lerg in net, who was playing for the first time since March 12. The veteran netminder played in five games during the regular season and went 3-1-1. Lerg finished with 16 saves on 19 shots.
“I wasn’t going to let Patty continue to stay in there and hang him out to dry by the way were playing,” Watson said. “I wanted to get Lerg in there and hopefully jump-start the team.”
Bonis batted a puck out of midair to make it 6-3 just 1:11 into the third period.
Tylor Spink then scored a power-play goal with exactly 13 minutes left to make it 6-4. Oslanski scored on a long shot from the point to make it 6-5.
“We don’t quit,” Watson said. “We continue to go, and that was our message. We wanted to get one, and then two. As soon as we got that third goal we thought we had them on the ropes.”
But Watson said the Wings capitalized on another turnover to make it 7-5.
“It’s pretty simple — we weren’t ready to play tonight,” Tyson Spink said. “We came into this building with a 2-0 lead, and I think we took that for granted. It starts with our work ethic, and in the first two periods we weren’t ourselves and that snowballed. We have to be more mentally prepared. It’s the playoffs. Every game is going to be tough.”
On Toledo’s first goal, Tyson Spink buried a one-timer just 16 seconds into the man advantage.
Tylor Spink gave full credit to Kalamazoo.
“They came out hard again in their building,” he said. “We didn’t have the jump we needed. But that third period we showed some resiliency, and that’s momentum going into the next game. They are a desperate hockey team. They were in their barn and did what they wanted to do.”
The Wings took a 1-0 lead 6:16 into the game on a power- play goal from Pitt. They went up 2-0 when Hart scored with 11:52 left in the first. Toledo’s A.J. Jenks got into a fight with Justin Taylor and landed a big overhand punch and several uppercuts in the tilt.
Toledo killed off a Kalamazoo 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:45. But on the Wings’ fifth power play of the game, Schneider made it 5-1.
The Walleye made it 5-2 when Globke scored his first of the playoffs with 3:59 left in the second.
But Kalamazoo answered when Eric Kattelus scored on a deflection with 28 seconds left in the middle period for the 6-2 advantage.
Kalamazoo goalie Nick Riopel — who won Game 3 with 17 saves on 21 shots — started for the second straight night and had 31 stops on 36 shots. The Wings ensured that they would play one more contest on home ice with Game 6 set for Sunday here at 3 p.m.
“Now it’s a best two out of three, and we have home ice advantage,” Watson said. “We worked so hard to have home ice, and we will go back to the Huntington Center and have a better outing for sure. Let’s not kid ourselves. We have a strong group here. We have great leadership and we'll rebound from this.”
FISH TALES: Toledo had a power play in the second period and kept the puck in the Wings’ end. The Walleye were buzzing but did not score. … Tyson Spink was robbed by Riopel with 7:44 left in the second period as Justin Agosta set him up with a one-timer. But Riopel slid over to make a pad save. ... Late in the second period, Riopel stoned Shane Berschbach with a quick glove save after Toledo had pulled within three. … Lerg came up with a terrific save going from his right to his left to stop a 2-on-1 breakaway early in the third period.
Walleye vs. Kalamazoo
Game 1: Walleye 4, Kalamazoo 3
Game 2: Walleye 4, Kalamazoo 1
Game 3: Kalamazoo 6, Walleye 4
Game 4: Kalamazoo 8, Walleye 5 (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: 7:35 p.m. Friday, at Toledo
Game 6: 3 p.m. Sunday, at Kalamazoo
Game 7: 7:35 p.m. Tuesday, at Toledo*
* if necessary
All games on BCSN and 1230 AM
Toledo’s Zach Nastasiuk, right, is defended by Kalamazoo’s Michael Trebish behind the net in Game 4 of their Central Division semifinal series on Wednesday night in Kalamazoo. KALAMAZOO WINGS/ALLIE LOCHART
Toledo’s Tylor Spink controls the puck during Game 4 on Wednesday night. He had a goal and two assists. KALAMAZOO WINGS/ALLIE LOCHART