Maybe Wings head coach Johnny Mouradian ran out of inspiring halftime speeches. Maybe the Wings dug themselves too deep a whole, or couldn’t make enough second half adjustments.
Whatever the reason, the Wings saw their win streak end at three games after they failed to muster much offense and fell to the West-leading Washington Stealth, 16-10.
Mouradian saved his most biting words for opposing head coach Chris Hall, whom Mouradian claimed sent in two goon defenders to play offense late in the game, which led to a brawl in the Wings’ defensive end with just 1:12 remaining in the game.
"I think it’s a very, very classless act of a head coach in this league who sends players out to start a brawl when they’re up by [six] goals," said Mouradian. "We didn’t want our players to go out there and shake hands after because anything could have happened with how volatile they were."
The brawl featured two “main event” fights, as Wings forward Kevin Ross later called them, and resulted in seven penalties including three game misconducts, as well as a Wings’ end littered with equipment. Wings goalie Brandon Miller was one of the players tossed after he left the crease and joined in the brawl.
Miller allowed all 16 goals, and Mouradian said he didn’t get enough help from his defense.
After recording three straight wins in come-from-behind fashion, the Wings once again got off to a slow start and trailed the visiting Stealth, 10-3, at halftime. Unlike their previous three games, however, the second half magic was nowhere to be found.
"We just broke down completely in that second quarter," Mouradian said. "We’ve got to get goals out of guys that have to score goals. That’s what it comes down to."
The Wings (5-4) scored just once in that decisive second quarter, while the Stealth lead grew to seven by halftime. Washington outscored Philadelphia, 6-1 in the quarter and kept Philadelphia on its heels the rest of the way.
The Stealth (7-4) scored on seven of their 18 shots in the quarter. In addition to making the most of their scoring opportunities, they also stole opportunities from the Wings. Washington managed to score on more Wings’ power plays than even the Wings themselves, as they recorded six shorthanded goals.
Washington’s Rhys Duch managed a hat trick of shorthanded goals on his way to a game-high five goals. Drew Westervelt, who had been hot for the Wings in recent games, scored his only goal of the night while his team was shorthanded. He also collected three assists.
Paul Rabil and Kyle Sweeney scored two goals apiece for the Wings, who traded goals with the Stealth for most of the second half. Kevin Ross scored the first goal of the fourth quarter and struggled to come up with the reason for his team’s slow starts:
"That’s something that’s plagued us all year," Ross said. "I don’t think there’s much of a reason for it or an excuse for it. I’m not sure the reason for it, but it’s something that needs to be addressed."
Ross pointed to the second half, where the Wings outscored the Stealth.
"If we come out and put a whipping on a team like what they’re doing to us [in the first half], it could have been a different game."
The Wings will have the week to address their first half woes before taking on the East’s first place Toronto Rock (7-3) at the Wells Fargo Center on March 16.