WHEELING - Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli had a sit down with alternate captain Paul Crowder early Saturday and delivered a simple, yet poignant message.
''I told him 'you're our leader and you've got to go. When you go, the rest of the guys are going to follow,' '' Donatelli said. ''It was a good, solid, group effort, but I think it starts with Pauly.
''He gets the rest of the guys going.''
Wheeling’s Joe Stejskal fishes the puck out of the corner Saturday night against Fort Wayne at WesBanco Arena.
Crowder and his Nailers teammates answered the bell, flipping the script on a Fort Wayne team that, like Wheeling, has had issues holding third-period leads. Crowder set up the tying power-play goal at 13:34 of the third, then Luke Pither tallied 50 seconds into overtime off a turnover as the Nailers (7-10-5 -19) earned a 3-2 victory at WesBanco Arena.
''It was a come-from-behind win and it's always nice to get those, especially in your own barn,'' said Crowder, who had a goal and an assist. ''They're probably one of the bigger teams we've played and we took it to them for most of the game, I thought.''
Wheeling battled back twice from one-goal deficits, falling behind 1-0 a little more than 10 minutes in when former Pittsburgh Penguin and Nailer Luca Caputi, who was robbed by Nailers goaltender Scott Darling on his initial shot, scored top shelf on the rebound for his fifth.
Less than six minutes later, it was tied as Crowder swept in from the right circle and beat Komets (12-10-1 -26) goaltender Charlie Effinger for his fifth on the rebound. Cody Chupp and Phillipe Lefebvre assisted.
''Just don't be denied,'' Donatelli said. ''That's what we told them, 'it's not about the Xs and Os.' We cannot be denied.
''If somebody puts a stick on you, you've got to win those 1-on-1 battles, you've got to get to the net and you've got to get dirty goals.' ''
Fort Wayne retook the lead on a power-play goal from Ryan Lasch at 16:31 of the second, and it remained 2-1 until late in the third. That's when a Nailers man advantage that had failed to register a shot on its first try, went to work.
Crowder came off the half wall and waited before feeding the puck to Hotham, who beat Effinger as he was going down for his fourth of the season. Pither added the helper.
''They press really hard, so I think as soon as I got to the middle where I was, I had a bunch of time,'' Crowder recalled. ''I looked at (Hotham) and saw he was open, but the D-man took it away.
''So I went to my backhand and gave it to him for the finish.''
The Nailers, who held a 39-18 shot advantage, wasted little time in overtime as Pither corralled a lose puck and found himself all alone in the slot.
''The play all started when I gained the blueline and (Chris Higgins) went through,'' Pither said. ''I tried to get it to him and their defenseman poked it back.
''Then when I started walking down the gut I realized I had a couple seconds and the goalie kind of froze. I was lucky enough to put it over his shoulder.
''He's a little bit of a smaller goalie, so when you're looking at the net coming down you see more space up there so you tend to go higher.''
Wheeling, which is in the midst of a six-game homestand that spans just eight days, doesn't have much time to relax. Evansville is in town for a 2 p.m. face-off today.
''We got in at about 5 a.m. (Saturday morning),'' Pither said. ''Getting a little bit of sleep, getting up, getting a meal and playing again.''