Shorthanded Admirals can't quite get over the hump.
Series Tied at 2-2
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss.
WBS Potter, (1) (Sill, Wagner), 4:48
NOR Harju, (1) (Pouliot, Fornataro), 16:04
WBS Strait, (1) (Sterling, Vitale), 2:38
NOR Pouliot, (3) (Mihalik, Fornataro), 13:25
WBS Craig, (1) (Lerg, Sterling), 18:17 (PP)
WBS Vitale, (1) (Collins, Potter), 15:38
Marc-Antoine Pouliot was named the game's second star.
Norfolk was allowed to insert Alex Hutchings in the lineup and they added Charles Landry, but they were still without 6 of their best forwards due to injuries and recalls. They may get one or both of Mattias Ritola and/or Blair Jones back for Game Five and with Tri-City being eliminated last night, there's the possibility of adding Carter Ashton to the lineup. Maybe they can get Angelidis or Berry back too? We'll see.
Game Five seems like a must-win, and the Admirals need as many hands on deck as possible.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
A brave effort by the Admirals comes an eyelash short.
Norfolk Leads the Series 2-1
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the loss.
WBS Veilleux, (2) , 17:58
NOR Giliati, (1) (Roy, Vernace), 15:40 (PP)
WBS Lerg, (1) (Hutchinson, Thiessen), 10:20 (PP)
Stefano Giliati and Tokarski were the game's second and third stars. Giliati played a heck of a game and was arguably the team's most dangerous forward.
Due to injuries, the Admirals were already without the services of Alex Berry and Mike Angelidis going into the week. They lost 2/3 of arguably the best line in the AHL to recall when Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones were moved up to Tampa Bay earlier in the day. Captain Chris Durno then went out very early in the game with an injury and never returned, and was soon followed to the locker room by Paul Szczechura, who was injured by Brian Strait after the whistle in a very questionable play. So, the Admirals played the Penguins to a stalemate with no less than 6 of their best forwards out of the lineup until a Pierre-Cedric Labrie double minor for high-sticking gave the Pens the opportunity to get the go-ahead goal.
The difficulty for the Admirals now is that Ritola and Jones won't return for Game Four tomorrow night, and Durno and Szczechura's injuries are obviously serious to have missed the remainder of the game when the team was so shorthanded. The Admirals do have a healthy Alex Hutchings on the roster, but Hutchings was not listed on the team's Clear Day roster as a player in residence. So the team may be very shorthanded again in Game Four. Tonight might have been the Admirals' best chance to get to a third win before Friday. You knew things were dire when Admirals radio voice Pete Michaud let a Freudian slip that the Pens were about to tie up the series if they could hold off Norfolk in the final few minutes of the game.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk stuns Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Now they have a tiger by the tail.
Norfolk Leads the Series 1-0
Dustin Tokarski allowed just 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory in his first professional playoff game. For Norfolk, if they get goaltending, they're capable of beating anyone, and they got goaltending from Tic tonight.
NOR Ritola, (1) (Milam), 5:23
NOR Pouliot, (1) (Ritola), 18:27
WBS Veilleux, (1) (Walker, Potter), 17:13
Tokarski, Mattias Ritola, and Marc-Antoine Pouliot were the game's three stars. The like of Ritola/Pouliot/Jones is as good as any in the AHL right now, and there isn't a hotter player in the league than Mattias Ritola. Mind you, the rest of the Admirals forwards haven't been as stellar over the past month, but that line gives the Admirals enough firepower to win games with competent defense and goaltending. The Penguins learned that tonight.
So, Norfolk has accomplished what they set out to accomplish in the first two games of the series, which was to steal home ice before heading back to Norfolk in the 2-3-2 format. However, the challenge becomes very different in Game Two. The Admirals now need to recognize they've got a tiger by the tail. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is now going to be desperate to win Game Two, because a loss may be a death sentence for the Penguins. So, Norfolk is going to face a higher level of intensity than they've seen all year, particularly in the first 20 minutes of Game Two. If they're not careful, they'll be blown out and momentum will reside on the Penguins' bus headed down to Virginia. However, if they handle the surge from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton early and can keep the game within a goal heading into the final frame, the Ritola line and special teams can deliver the big time upset. Make no mistake, WBS should be favored heavily in Game Two, but Norfolk has enough, on paper, to pull the stunner off again. At the very least, if Norfolk is competitive in Game Two, momentum will still be on the Admirals' side going into Game Three, Four, and Five, having already accomplished what they needed to in Pennsylvania.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
It's an organization-wide Lightning vs. Penguins playoff matchup.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the victory.
NOR Pouliot, (25) (Ritola), 9:26
NOR Szczechura, (21) (Milam, Barberio), 15:46 (PP)
NOR Jones, (24) (Pouliot, Ritola), 19:22 (PP)
CT Mitchell, (8) (Couture, Valentenko), 1:02
NOR Ritola, (9) (Jones), 3:15
NOR Szczechura, (22) (Wright, Harju), 5:34
CT Valentenko, (5) (Yogan, Dupont), 13:10
CT Niemi, (3) (Grachev, Couture), 11:56 (PP)
NOR Angelidis, (20) , 17:36
In 56 games, Blair Jones set a new career high in points with 55. His previous high was 54 in 80 games two seasons ago.
Johan Harju finishes his rookie AHL campaign with 23 goals and 52 points in 63 games, and a +15 rating.
With the victory, Norfolk leapfrogged Binghamton into 4th place in the East Division. That means Norfolk will draw the top team in the Eastern Conference, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in the first round. The Pens have the stingiest goaltending and defense in the conference, allowing just 183 goals (2.29 GAA). It'll also be an interesting meeting of old friends, as a key member of the Pens is BoltProspects alumni Ryan Craig. Craig had 19 goals and 48 points to finish 2nd on the Pens in scoring this season.
It's a brutally tough matchup. The key will be for Norfolk to focus on getting a win in the first two on the road. Get that win, settle into the grind of the series, and let the chips fall where they may. On paper, Norfolk is as talented as anyone in the conference, although there's a question mark in net with Dustin Tokarski recovering from getting slashed with a skate. If they get goaltending, though, they have a chance.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk clings to 4th in the East Division by the slimmest of margins.
Jaroslav Janus shined making 42 saves in the overtime loss. He's allowed just 5 goals on 86 shots (.953 sv%) since spelling Dustin Tokarski against Hershey when Tic got cut with a skate. All of a sudden, he's playing under control and serving notice to the new organization why the old organization was so high on him. He's also finally justifying that #11 ranking he currently holds here on BoltProspects.
BNG Benoit, (11) (Daugavins, Smith), 11:46 (PP)
NOR Ritola, (8) (Jones, Mihalik), 16:01
BNG O'Brien, (24) (Condra, Greening), 3:48
Janus was the game's third star.
Blair Jones has points in 9 straight games. Mattias Ritola has points in 7 straight and 8 goals and 17 points over that span, including 6 multi-point games. Tonight was the first time since 2/26/11 that Ritola didn't have a multi-point effort.
Norfolk climbs to within 2 points of 3rd place Charlotte with 1 game in hand on the Checkers. They also now hold a slim 1 point lead over the 5th place Senators with 1 game in hand on Binghamton. If a crossover scenario were to occur, Norfolk could get the 3rd seed in the Atlantic Division if they finish with more points than the 3rd place Connecticut Whale. They now have a 5 point lead on Connecticut with 3 games left to go for each club, so they could easily clinch no worse than the 3 seed in the Atlantic in their upcoming games against the East Division's 6th place team, Syracuse.
Norfolk draws Syracuse tomorrow night and again on Saturday night before closing out the regular season on Sunday in Hartford against the Whale. Charlotte draws the now eliminated Worcester Sharks on Friday and again on Saturday. Binghamton goes to Rochester (7th in the North Division) on Friday and finishes at home against Adirondack (7th in the East Division) on Saturday. So, Norfolk likely will need 4 out of 6 possible points to hold off Binghamton for 4th, and they may need to run the table and hope Worcester can take at least a point away from Charlotte to get to 3rd place. 2 more points earned or lost by Connecticut will clinch no worse than the 3 seed in the Atlantic via the crossover. In that scenario, Norfolk would face Manchester. Unfortunately for Norfolk, their three most likely matchups (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey, or Manchester) happen to be the 3 best defensive teams in the Eastern Conference in terms of goals allowed. Great.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.