WEST VALLEY CITY — The playoff berth that they've been chasing for the last two games eluded the Utah Grizzlies yet again Sunday afternoon in the E Center as they came out flat and spotted Fresno a 4-0 first-period lead, then made a good comeback that finally fell short with a Falcon empty-net goal with :59 remaining, 6-4.
"Yeah, I thought we had all the momentum," said Utah forward Ryan Kinasewich, whose second goal of the game got Utah within 5-4 with nearly half the third period remaining.
Forward Rob Sirianni also had two goals, and Kinasewich added an assist.
"We just dug ourselves too deep a hole in the first," Kinasewich said, though he was cheered by the last two periods. It showed that when Utah is playing well, "We can dominate."
"It was just a totally terrible period, 4-0," said Utah coach Jason Christie. "Uphill battle from there. We just caught us right off-guard, a couple bad goals."
Utah's defense did not clean up well after the initial save by goalie Mike Mole, and Christie said the forwards " were just looking for a breakaway pass to start the game, and we can't win like that. We don't play like that on the road, and there's no way we should be changing at home.
"We're in a funk and have to find a way to fight through this."
It was Fresno's fourth straight victory over Utah in five days, the last three in the E Center. It scored on a penalty shot to open the game at 1:23, got two even-strength scores and then a power-play goal by 14:51 of the first. Sirianni scored at 3:18 of the second, but the Falcons came back at 4:04 for a 5-1 lead before Kinasewich scored unassisted, Sirianni got his second on a power play, and Kinasewich added the one that really gave Utah hope.
The Grizzlies are now off for a five-game road trip with two at National Conference-leading Las Vegas Friday and Saturday, followed by three at Victoria starting March 19. Seven of their final 11 games of the regular season are on the road — and they've gotten at least a point in their last 10 road games and won eight of them.
Should Bakersfield lose tonight, the Grizzlies will clinch a playoff berth without playing.