(PR) Johnstown, PA – The Wheeling Nailers erased Devils leads twice Friday in Johnstown, taking their first lead midway through the second period and sinking Trenton for the fifth time in six meetings this season. Goals from Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Kelly Miller less than three minutes apart in the second period helped lift Wheeling to its fifth victory in the last six contests, while goaltender Patrick Killeen made 34 saves.
Beginning a three-game, three-night, three-city series with the Nailers, the Devils aimed to replicate the effort displayed Monday in Reading: a defensive minded 2-1 shootout victory over the Royals. With noticeable energy in the opening minutes, Trenton took an early lead with Jeremy Akeson’s seventh goal of the season at 2:28 of the first. Setup by Jordon Southorn’s third assist of the season, Akeson’s blast on the rush from the left wing circle all but erased the memory of Trenton’s 4-1 debacle vs. Wheeling from January 12.
The Nailers never allowed the Devils to take full control in the first, sustained early pressure, and eventually answered 19 seconds into their first power play. Defenseman Dan Henningson scored from the backdoor on a backhand feed from the left wing by Zabotel. Henningson’s fourth of the season tied the score, 1-1.
Defenseman Brad Miller, returning to the Trenton lineup after a brief stint on injured reserve, scored his first goal since December 29 to put the Devils back on top, 2-1, four minutes into the second. Seconds after beginning a four-on-four, Miller made an aggressive individual effort toward the net for the score with Tony Zancanaro earning the helper, his 12th point of the year.
The lead slipped away from Trenton again minutes later with a perfectly timed pass from Mike Gershon to Zabotel coming across the blue line. Goalie Shane Connelly seemed to deny Zabotel’s shot, but the puck was tipped in for Zabotel’s second point of the night and a 2-2 tie.
Wheeling’s go-ahead goal also was born from timing, as Kelly Miller hopped out of the penalty box just as Andy Thomas was skating by with the puck after a fruitless Devils’ power play. Miller made the steal and cruised toward the net unabated and beat Connelly for Wheeling’s first lead, 3-2, at 9:01 of the second.
Before the second period came to a close, Myles Stoesz had a run-in with Miller, and each player took roughing penalties: Stoesz and double minor and 10-minute misconduct, and Miller a minor.
The Devils couldn’t find their offensive rhythm in the third, and a comeback chance was derailed when Mikael Bedard made it 4-2 Wheeling in the last five minutes of regulation. Trevor Kell got the Devils within 4-3 with one second left, but the Devils ran out of time.
Trenton hosts Wheeling Saturday in Trenton at 7 p.m. and in Atlantic City Sunday at 4 p.m.