SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls hopes of home-ice advantage in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs ended Wednesday evening as a third-period comeback fell short in a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Barracuda.
The loss leaves the Gulls needing two standings points in their final two games to assure themselves of a playoff berth. The Gulls will conclude the season by playing at Tucson Friday and Saturday, in a scenario similar to last season.
The Gulls needed one standings point in their final three games last season to be assured of a playoff berth, but lost all three games to Tucson.
The Gulls cut San Jose’s lead to 4-2 with six minutes, 15 seconds to play on Ben Street’s power-play goal.
They pulled within one with seven seconds left when Corey Tropp scored a shorthanded goal. Despite coach Dallas Eakins pulling goaltender Kevin Boyle for an extra attacker, the Gulls just had five skaters because they were killing Sam Carrick’s high-sticking penalty.
The victory assured the Barracuda (38-21-3-4) will finish no lower than second in the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division and gave them home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. San Jose trails division-leading Bakersfield (40-21-3-2) by two points.
The third-place Gulls (35-24-4-3) are two points ahead of fourth-place Colorado (35-26-4-1) and three ahead of fifth-place Tucson (33-25-5-3). The top four teams make the playoffs.
The Gulls opened the scoring 9:46 into the first period on Justin Kloos’ 18th goal of the season, but allowed the next four goals.
The Barracuda tied the score 11:33 into the second period on Francis Perron’s goal and took a 2-1 lead on Jon Martin’s goal 14:27 into the second period.
San Jose increased its lead to 4-1 with 10 seconds left in the third period on Evan Weinger’s goal and Maxim Letunov’s goal with 10:02 to play in the third period.
The Gulls were outshot, 33-32, despite a 12-6 advantage in the third period, before a crowd announced at 8,036.
Boyle (24-13-1-0) made 29 saves. Josef Korenar (23-8-1-1) made 29 for the Barracuda, the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate.
The Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate, killed all six of San Jose’s power-play opportunities and scored on one of their three.