PANIK ATTACK, Y'ALL!!!
Norfolk Wins the Series 4-2
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. The one goal he allowed was on a weak rebound that ended up ping-ponging behind him, but he was perfect from thereon out. His 30 saves included a penalty shot stop on Connecticut's best scorer, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, who did Janus a favor by taking his attempt at the pace of a snail's crawl. Easy money for a goaltender as quick and athletic as Janus.
CT Audy-Marchessault, (4) (Hrivik, Wellman), 14:49
NOR Johnson, (2) (Palat), 10:52
NOR Panik, (2) (Killorn, Oberg), 17:01
Richard Panik and Janus were the game's first and second stars. Panik is made of steel. He took a slapshot to the face in the Third Period and looked tough as nails immediately popping up and skating to the locker room for his medical care. No nonsense. Stitch me up. He gets back out midway through Overtime, and on his first shift he absolutely dejocked Cameron Talbot on a backhand-forehand deke for the breakaway winner in Overtime. He was ineffective the final month of the regular season, but what has impressed me in these playoffs is that although the points haven't come in droves, he's been very strong on the puck on the forecheck and he's contributed in other areas. I felt so good for the young man to get the winner.
What a stretch pass by the already immortal Alex Killorn to get Panik that breakaway. Good Lord. I hope Norfolk's trainer did up Panik's face with that kind of laser-like surgical precision.
Other than Alexandre Picard, I don't know if there's been any Admirals player who has been as consistently strong as Ondrej Palat in these playoffs. That guy was a playmaking demon tonight. I'm not surprised Norfolk won it in Overtime. I am surprised Palat didn't set up or score the winner. It seemed like he set up at least a half dozen dangerous chances in the game, including Tyler Johnson's key tying goal in the Third Period. I'm really starting to love me some Ondrej Palat.
It really is a game of (less than) inches. Marek Hrivik had a shot in the Third Period that hit the underside of the crossbar and was waved off that would've given Connecticut a 2-0 lead and likely the game. With Cameron Talbot looking like a wall in net and the Whale defense looking stifling through the first 40 minutes of play, it really did look like the Admirals were going to have to play Game Seven late Sunday afternoon. 1/4 inch lower and Norfolk probably loses. Instead, the Admirals mashed down on the gas pedal and ended up outshooting the Whale 34-7 in the Third and Overtime, after getting outshot 24-12 in the first two frames.
Norfolk awaits the winner of Game Seven between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and St. John's tomorrow night in the Eastern Conference Finals after the Penguins took Game Six from the IceCaps earlier tonight 4-2. Norfolk should resolve that whoever makes it out of that series, the Admirals jump on them immediately in Game One. Whoever survives that Game Seven will be emotionally drained and have to travel from St. John's all the way to Norfolk. Jump on them and don't look back. In the West, Oklahoma City finished out their series tonight and they'll face Toronto in the Western Conference Finals.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The line must be drawn here!
Norfolk Leads the Series 3-2
Jaroslav Janus stopped all 22 shots he faced for the victory. Remind me never to play poker against Jon Cooper, because he's obviously a gambler with impeccable instincts to switch back to Janus between the pipes. In fact, I'd have to say Cooper pressed all the right buttons team-wide to get them ready for this critical game.
NOR Picard, (5) (Labrie), 15:15
NOR Picard, (6) (Jackson, Palat), 2:43
NOR Palat, (3) (Johnson, Cote), 14:06
NOR Labrie, (3) (Angelidis, Segal), 19:54
Picard continues to play like a man possessed. He had just 6 goals in 42 regular season games, but his pair of tallies tonight got him to 6 in just 9 postseason contests. He was dominant tonight, and was definitely the leader of a focused Norfolk attack. In fact, we have an exclusive transcript of Picard's emotional pre-game speech to the team below (not really):
Palat, for his part, continues to obliterate all expectations with a well-rounded game that has made him, consistently, one of the Admirals' best performers to this point in the playoffs. Not only did he have a goal and an assist tonight, but he also knocked Andre Deveaux, who is built like a tank, off the ice for a good portion of play with a hit. He's strong offensively. He's strong defensively. He's killing penalties. He's even hitting people. What a great late round pickup by the Lightning's scouts.
Tyler Johnson returned from injury and assisted on Palat's goal.
If I was a Connecticut Whale fan, I'd be pretty upset that Game Five essentially became a neutral site game in Bridgeport, which had to curtail their intensity a little bit in a critical Game Five situation. Fortunately, though, I'm not a Connecticut Whale fan. Stinks for you, Whale fans.
Game Six is Friday in Norfolk and both teams will now make the 8-9 hour bus trek to Scope. The good news is that St. John's failed to close out Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last night in double overtime, so if Norfolk can handle business on Friday, they won't be at any disadvantage from a rest standpoint going into the Eastern Conference Finals. The momentum is all in the Admirals' favor now. They need to finish the drill. The line has been drawn here.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk withstands Connecticut's best shot.
Norfolk Leads the Series 2-1
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory. The stat line is ho hum, but he gave the Admirals exactly what they needed. Under siege for much of the first half of the Second Period, Tokarski kept the game close and allowed the Admirals to get their legs underneath them and get a critical victory.
CT Wellman, (2) , 5:20 (PP)
NOR Palat, (2) , 8:01 (SH)
CT Deveaux, (2) (Hrivik, Newbury), 17:12
NOR Killorn, (3) (Kostka, Picard), 11:31 (PP)
NOR Smith, (3) (Barberio, Conacher), 12:16
NOR Angelidis, (1) (Ouellet, Gudas), 17:40
CT Wellman, (3) (Newbury, Erixon), 1:06 (PP)
Ondrej Palat and Tokarski were the game's first and third stars. Color me pleasantly surprised with Palat overall this season. He's better along the wall and defensively than advertised. Heck, he even kills penalties. Between Palat and fellow Eastern European Richard Panik, it's really no contest which of the two has played better so far in the playoffs.
Speaking of those from the Czech-or-Slovakia region, Radko Gudas played a ton in the final frame protecting the one goal lead, and played really well.
Alex Killorn is the truth.
Cory Conacher is... touched? Is that the diplomatic way to put it? Heavyweight Andre Deveaux decided to rough up Conacher after the whistle on a play in the Second Period, and Conacher actually chased after him like he wanted to fight him. Cory, brother, you're strong pound-for-pound, but Deveaux eats meals that weigh more than you do. Stick to whipping his behind on the scoreboard, where it really hurts.
Norfolk won tonight despite being outshot for the first time in these playoffs. They'll move on to Game Four tomorrow night with the chance to really put Connecticut behind the eight ball. Yes, they got "home ice" back tonight, but bear in mind Game Five is really a neutral site game in Bridgeport due to a scheduling conflict. The Whale can't afford to lose Game Four. Sweep the leg, Admirals. Sweep the leg.
In the other Eastern Conference Semifinal, St. John's swept the weekend and now hold a 3-1 series lead over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Another reason for Norfolk to get on the gas tomorrow is that they don't want the IceCaps to have a rest advantage heading into any potential Eastern Conference Finals series.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus allowed just 1 goal on 21 shots for his 12th straight victory and 20th of the season. For the moment, Janus moves into a tie with several others for 11th in the AHL with 20 wins.
STJ Gagnon, (13) (Redmond, DeSantis), 2:11 (PP)
NOR Palat, (9) (Picard, Killorn), 15:42
NOR Devos, (6) (Labrie, Conacher), 10:41
22 straight wins! You probably all thought I was going to go with Dan Boyle, right? No, I kicked it really old school with the Shawn Chambers reference.
Norfolk will be raising at least one banner to the rafters of Scope in the Fall. They've just about clinched the East Division (1 point gained or 1 point lost by Hershey will do it), and they've just about put a lid on the Eastern Conference as a whole, as well. By sweeping this 2 game set against the IceCaps, they shrunk their magic number for the conference by 8 points. They now hold a 15 point lead on St. John's, with just 8 games left on the IceCaps' schedule. St. John's can't catch the Admirals in ROW, which means that the next point earned by the Admirals or lost by St. John's will just about clinch the #1 seed in the East for the Admirals. They also temporarily have opened up a 10 point lead on Oklahoma City, with the Barons currently in action and winning. The magic number for the top spot in the entire AHL is 6 points.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Bob Halkidis (yes)!
Dustin Tokarski stopped all 32 shots he faced for the victory. In Saturday's game, he broke his previous mark for wins, and tonight's shutout, his 5th, sets a new personal best for shutouts as a pro. He also ran his winning streak to 10 games and ran his save percentage for the year up to .911. He leads the league in wins by 3 at 29 and he's now tied for second in shutouts, 1 back of Ottawa's Ben Bishop.
NOR Palat, (8) (Barberio, Johnson), 12:27 (SH)
NOR Panik, (19) (Ouellet, Johnson), 17:34 (PP)
Tokarski and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars. While Johnson saw his goals streak snapped tonight, he ran his points streak to 13 games.
Don't look now, but with 40 points, Richard Panik is now tied for 15th in scoring amongst AHL rookies. The Panik attack is 1 goal shy of the magic 20 goal plateau.
Happy Birthday to Ondrej Palat, who celebrated with the game winning, shorthanded goal.
Among the wonderful things the Admirals win streak has already done, we can add this blog's first ever reference to former Lightning defenseman Bob Halkidis.
Standings-wise, the Admirals' magic number for clinching the division has now dropped to 2 points. A Norfolk win Friday or a Wilkes-Barre Scranton loss to Connecticut gets it done. In the conference, tonight's critical 4-point win did a lot to advance things for the Admirals, as they dropped that magic number from 10 to 6 with a single victory. A win Friday will make everything almost elementary. Norfolk could run their lead on St. John's to 15 points, with only 8 games remaining on the IceCaps' schedule, and there would be no way for St. John's to catch the Admirals in ROW, meaning the magic number will actually drop to 1.
Box score from TheAHL.com.