A magical night in Charlotte for Jones and the Admirals.
Jaroslav Janus rose up and played his best AHL game of the season stopping 21 of 23 shots, including a Brett Sutter penalty shot, to take his first win as an Admiral this season. He kept the Admirals where they needed to be through the first two periods and then made sure to make the last stop or two the team needed to pull away at the end. What Mike Smith was for the Lightning against Chicago last night, Janus was for the Admirals tonight.
NOR Ritola, (6) (Pouliot, Barberio), 7:54 (PP)
CHA Terry, (33) (Sanguinetti, Matsumoto), 12:30 (PP)
NOR Labrie, (6) (Wright, Berry), 7:56
CHA Sanguinetti, (3) (Graham, Matsumoto), 13:18 (PP)
NOR Jones, (22) (Pouliot, Milam), 18:49 (PP)
NOR Ritola, (7) (Jones, Pouliot), 0:36 (PP)
NOR Jones, (23) (Ritola), 7:40
Blair Jones is now the Norfolk Admirals' all-time leading scorer. He tied and then destroyed the record with a 3 point night that now leaves him just 3 points shy of his career high in points, despite the fact he set that mark in 80 games in 2008-2009 and he's played just 52 games this year. Jones has always been a BoltProspects favorite since his days with Moose Jaw and his rookie season with Springfield in the AHL. Through all the ups and downs of his professional career, he's kept getting better and climbing the ladder. To surpass some of the most beloved Admirals in the history of that franchise to claim the mantle of leading scorer is truly impressive and special.
His new line, with Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Mattias Ritola showed tonight it could be one of the league's best going into the playoffs. Ritola also had a 3 point night and now has 22 points in 13 AHL games this year. For his part, Pouliot climbed to 6th in the AHL in scoring with 69 points in 65 games.
Mark Barberio got point 29 tonight. He needs 1 more point in the 4 games remaining this week to reach the 30 point plateau.
Norfolk pulls to within 3 points of the Checkers for 3rd in the East Division with 2 games in hand, and now holds a 2 point edge over Binghamton with 1 game in hand. More to the point, the Admirals magic number for making the postseason is now 1 point. With a 6 point lead over Worcester and just 3 games remaining for the Sharks, any combination of a point gained by the Admirals or a point lost by Worcester will clinch a playoff berth for the Admirals by, at a minimum, the crossover rule. Interesting note about the crossover rule, if Norfolk were to crossover they could gain the 3rd seed in the Atlantic Division if they can continue to lead the Atlantic's 3rd place team, the Connecticut Whale. However, for tonight, the crossover seems like an afterthought for a team that controls its destiny to climb into the #3 spot in the division.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Big trouble in Norfolk.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 16 shots before leaving the game with an injury. With Cedrick Desjardins likely shelved for the rest of the season, any kind of injury to Tic is a big, big problem. The early indication is that Tokarski had his chin sliced open with a skate blade. So, you'd think he should be back, but considerably more ugly, for the road trip.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 14 shots for the hard luck loss. It was, by far and away, Janus' best performance of the season, and he may inherit the starter's job if Tokarski is out for any length of time.
HER Greentree, (29) (McNeill, Fahey), 0:59
NOR Ritola, (5) (Pouliot, Barberio), 3:56
NOR Pouliot, (22) (Jones, Ritola), 6:09 (PP)
NOR Pouliot, (23) (Ritola, Milam), 18:53 (PP)
NOR Durno, (19) , 19:17
HER Bouchard, (12) (Souray), 2:33
HER Greentree, (30) (Aucoin, McNeill), 3:08 (PP)
HER McNeill, (7) (Perreault), 6:12
HER Gordon, (26) (Aucoin, Fahey), 17:34
Marc-Antoine Pouliot was the game's second star.
Mattias Ritola has 19 points in 12 AHL games this season. Classic case of being too good for the AHL but not quite good enough to stick in the NHL?
Radko Gudas is -9 since the calendar turned to 2011 and he has plummeted from a +20 rating to a +11 rating in a little over 3 months. With an assist tonight, the Lightning's other gifted young defenseman, Mark Barberio now has 28 points and is just 2 shy of the 30 point plateau.
Norfolk finishes their season 19-11-10 at home. There have 5 games remaining in the regular season, and all will be on the road.
Norfolk remains in 4th place in the East Division by 1 point thanks to a loss by Binghamton. The Ads still hold 1 game in hand on the Senators. Unfortunately, 3rd place Charlotte won to take a 5 point lead over the Admrials with Norfolk holding 2 games in hand. It's not impossible for Norfolk to catch the Checkers, but they have to win their next game in Charlotte to have any kind of legitimate chance. Honestly, though, I want no part of Hershey. I'd almost rather play Wilkes/Barre-Scranton or take the crossover into the Atlantic Division and play Portland or Manchester.
Norfolk's remaining schedule: at Charlotte on Monday, at Binghamton on Wednesday, at Syracuse next Friday and Saturday, and the season finale at Connecticut next Sunday. It's a brutal stretch of 5 road games in 7 nights, with uncertainty between the pipes because of injuries.
One bit of good news, with Worcester's 4-1 loss to Providence, the gap on the 4th place team in the Atlantic remained at 6 points. The Sharks have just 4 games remaining, so any combination of Norfolk points earned and Sharks points lost equal to 3 will officially clinch a playoff spot for the Admirals. But, right now, it feels like the team is backing into the playoffs, and that's not good.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Comeback falls just short.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss.
WBS Sterling, (24) (Hutchinson), 2:22 (PP)
NOR Jones, (21) (Ritola, Berry), 8:43
WBS Veilleux, (9) (Walker, Potter), 14:44 (PP)
WBS Sterling, (25) (Lerg, Hutchinson), 18:53 (PP)
WBS Craig, (19) , 19:38
NOR Milam, (14) (Ritola, Harju), 8:26 (PP)
NOR Ritola, (3) (Roy, Pouliot), 11:42
Mattias Ritola was the game's second star.
For those wondering, Pat Nagle was Tic's backup tonight.
Norfolk burned up a very critical game in hand that they really needed to cash in. They sit at 88 points, 6 back of 2nd place Hershey, 3 back of 3rd place Charlotte, and 1 up on 5th place Binghamton. They now hold 2 games in hand on the Bears and Checkers, and 1 game in hand on the Senators. The good news is, the Admirals to face the Bears twice this weekend, so a couple of wins would put them in decent position to overtake Hershey. They're also still 8 points up on the Atlantic's 4th place team, Worcester, in the crossover, which is the safety net for the Admirals, and they have a game in hand on the Sharks. There are 7 games remaining in the regular season, and if the season ended tonight, Norfolk would be traveling to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to play these same Penguins in the opening round.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned forward Mattias Ritola to the Norfolk Admirals, Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Ritola, 6-foot, 192 pounds, has appeared in a NHL career-high 31 games this season with the Lightning, recording career-bests with four goals and eight points. He has also averaged 10:03 in ice time per game. Ritola recorded his first career multi-goal game March 14 at Toronto on his 24th birthday. He has played in nine games with the Admirals this season, recording two goals and 11 points with a plus-4 rating.
Rock bottom (?)
Dwayne Roloson allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss, including a softie to Frans Nielsen that would've made Dieter Kochan himself blush.
01:01 TB Thompson (9), Purcell (31), Lecavalier (23)
10:22 NYI Bailey (11), Jurcina (12)(PP)
05:16 NYI Okposo (5), Jurcina (13), Grabner (17)
13:39 NYI Martin (5), Hillen (16), Konopka (7)
08:08 NYI Nielsen (11), unassisted(SH)
10:31 TB Moore (14), Bergenheim (15), Thompson (14)(PP)
19:14 NYI Grabner (31), unassisted(SH)(EN)
Nate Thompson was the game's second star.
This feels like last season, and that's not a good thing. The Lightning could not buy a win at this time late last season and fell like a rock out of the playoff hunt. With 9 games left to go, the Lightning have an 11 point lead on 9th place, but even that doesn't feel safe with 3 games against the Canes on the schedule. The division is gone. An opportunity to hang a banner has been squandered. Right now, the Lightning just need a win, any win, to try to stabilize their sagging fortunes, and it feels like the team won't be able to beat anyone until Steve Downie or Ryan Malone return to the lineup. The Lightning look stale and lost, and it feels like only a shakeup in the lineup will work. Nobody can find the back of the net. Stupid decisions keep getting made defensively. And, now, you even have the likes of Sean Bergenheim making undisciplined plays and Roloson giving up Dairy Queen Blizzards. It's a near total collapse, and I don't care if the Lightning outshot the Islanders 38-28 if you keep giving up shorthanded 2-on-0's, the number of shots matters little.
Blair Jones had 3 shots and 2 blocked shots in 10:42.
Mattias Ritola will have to wait to graduate from prospect status next season.