WHEELING - Chris Barton had a chance to put the Wheeling Nailers on top when he broke in all alone on Toledo goaltender Kent Simpson with less than two minutes to go in the second period Thursday night at WesBanco Arena. The puck, though, rang off the post and somehow managed to not cross the goal line.
Given a reprieve, Barton made a second opportunity count. The second-year pro dribbled a shot through Simpson's pads for the lone goal in the shootout as the Nailers (3-3-1 - 7) won their third straight game in front of league and Pittsburgh Penguins brass, 3-2, against the Walleye (4-2-1 - 9).
With ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna sitting in the press box alongside Penguins coaches Dan Bylsma, Todd Reirden and video coordinator Andy Saucier, the Nailers surrendered a 2-0 lead but remained steady behind the play of goaltender Patrick Killeen, who stopped 19 of 21 shots and then all five in the shootout.
''He's playing really well,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said of his goaltender, who has won three straight, including the last two in shootout fashion. Killeen will give way to Scott Darling in one of the next two games, either tonight in Evansville or Saturday in Cincinnati.
The Nailers, who traveled eight hours by bus to Evansville immediately after the game, jumped in front 2-0 early on goals by defensemen Cody Wild and captain Peter Merth.
Wild gave Wheeling a 1-0 lead at 2:58 of the first as he took a drop pass from Stefan Chaput and lifted the puck over the glove shoulder of Simpson for his second goal of the season. Bobby Farnham added the secondary assist.
''He's a smart player. He knows when to jump into the play and when not to,'' Donatelli said of Wild. ''He'll give you some offense back there.''
The Nailers made it 2-0 when Merth notched his first on a slapshot from the point, with assists going to Wild and Chaput.
The Walleye, though, bounced back, thanks to a gritty play by Byron Froese, who was crunched by the Nailers' Adam Ross but managed to get a cross-ice pass to Ben Youds who jumped up on the play to notch his first of the season at 10:22 of the first. A little more than six minutes later Toledo tied the game. Randy Rowe, a notorious Nailers killer, was part of a 3-on-2 break and cleaned up a rebound by lifting it over a prone Killeen for his second of the season.
''We're at home, we come out and have a good start like we talked about and did everything we wanted to do,'' Donatelli said. ''We made a couple mental mistakes and just let them creep back in it.
''They've got some talent over there and before you know it, it's 2-2.
''We've got to limit that.''
The Nailers did limit the Walleye from that point forward and went on to outshoot them by a 28-21 margin. Wheeling killed off a short two-man advantage halfway through the third period to help preserve the tie and get it to a shootout for Barton, who missed last weekend's game after badly cutting his leg in practice.
''It's very important, especially at home, to get those first two points,'' Donatelli said. ''Now we've got to peck away at Evansville and then we'll worry about Cincinnati.''
NOTES: Injured alternate captain Ben Farrer is set to see Pittsburgh doctors today. There is no timetable for his return to action. ... Donatelli said Christiaan Minella will likely make his season debut this weekend. He had offseason shoulder surgery and began on the 21-day IR. ... Denver Manderson was in the crowd Thursday night, meaning he'll be joining the team soon from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Wheeling 3, Toledo 2
Toledo2 0 0 0 - 2
Wheeling2 0 0 0 - 3
1st Period-1, Wheeling, Wild 2 (Chaput, Farnham), 2:58. 2, Wheeling, Merth 1 (Wild, Chaput), 6:41. 3, Toledo, Youds 1 (Rowe, Froese), 10:22. 4, Toledo, Rowe 2 (Froese, Glendening), 16:56. Penalties-Farnham Whl (roughing), 12:35; Nestrasil Tol (delay of game), 18:10.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Coetzee Tol (interference), 8:30; Novak Tol (elbowing), 14:46.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Chaput Whl (holding), 8:35; McNeill Whl (boarding), 10:29; Ryan Tol (interference), 10:43.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout - Toledo 0 (Glendening NG, Nestrasil NG, Novak NG, Froese NG, Campbell NG), Wheeling 1 (Fergus NG, Chaput NG, Barton G, Wild NG).
Shots on Goal-Toledo 9-2-8-2-0-21. Wheeling 9-9-7-2-1-28.
Power-Play Opportunities-Toledo 0-3; Wheeling 0-4.
Goalies-Toledo, Simpson 2-1-0-1 (27 shots-25 saves). Wheeling, Killeen 3-2-0-1 (21 shots-19 saves).
Referee-Andrew Wilk (24); Linesmen-Shaun Morgan (71), Zach Roberts (84).