ESTERO, Fla. -- The Gwinnett Gladiators (32-22-2-1) couldn't recover from a three-goal deficit Tuesday night at Germain Arena, as they dropped their third straight game to the Everblades (28-17-4-5) 5-4.
Trailing 5-2 into the third, Gwinnett's rally started on a nifty tally from rookie Nick Walsh.
Walsh took an outlet pass from Pierro-Zabotel and slid it between the legs of Florida goalie Rob Madore after a nice deke to cut the deficit to two at 2:20. A late flurry saw a rebound bounce to Evan Bloodoff at the near post for another goal with just 8.6 seconds remaining, but the Gladiators comeback bid ultimately came up short.
Madore finished with 38 saves for the Blades to win his fifth start in a row. Over the past three games against Gwinnett, he faced 123 shots, turning aside 115 of them. Nick Niedert took the loss for the Gladiators 15 saves.
The Gladiators remain in first place in the South Division with 67 points, but have just one more than Greenville and two more than Florida.
The Everblades cashed in on their first two power play opportunities of the night, with Aaron Bogosian and Mathieu Roy finding the back of the net less than a minute apart at 8:33 and 9:27 of the first. The Blades finished the night 3-for-6 on the man advantage.
The Gladiators got back within one on a power play goal of their own. Joey Haddad threw a puck to the slot, and had it deflect in off Madore. Haddad's 12th was assisted by Justin Bowers and Casey Pierro-Zabotel.
Roy opened the scoring in the second at 7:41, but Gwinnett answered back 25 seconds later. Alex Belzile recovered a rebound in the slot and tucked a shot past Madore to make it a 3-2 game. Haddad and Justin Weller claimed the assists, but despite a series of chances the Gladiators couldn't draw closer.
Florida buried the next two in the latter portion of the second. Roy completed the hat trick at 15:06, and Leigh Salters tacked on a power play goal at 19:10 to put the Blades up 5-2 through 40 minutes.
The Gladiators return to action Thursday night at the Amway Center in Orlando as they face the Solar Bears at 7:00 p.m.