It took Ondrej Palat eight seconds to change the complexion of the game, and less than eight minutes to deal the knockout blow.
The forward scored a shorthanded goal in the opening seconds of the third period to give the Syracuse Crunch a two-goal lead, then set up Tyler Johnson for another shorthanded goal at the 7:24 mark.
The two goals on the penalty kill allowed the Crunch to cruise to a 3-0 win over the Springfield Falcons in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday. Syracuse leads the series 3-0, and can move on with a win Friday.
"He was a difference-maker in the third period," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler of Palat. "He made an unbelievable play shorthanded to make it 2-0, and followed it up with an unbelievable pass to Johnson to make it 3-0."
Springfield just has no answers for Syracuse's top line. None.
Syracuse Leads the Series 3-0
Cedrick Desjardins stopped all 25 shots he faced for his first shutout of these playoffs. Desjardins getting hot must be a terrifying prospect for the teams still alive in the AHL playoffs.
SYR Panik, (4) (Palat), 15:15
SYR Palat, (4) (Johnson), 0:08 (SH)
SYR Johnson, (7) (Palat, Cote), 7:24 (SH)
Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Desjardins were the game's three stars. Palat and Johnson are absolutely lethal as penalty killers. They were generating a couple of great chances a night in the Portland series and they haven't let up on Springfield.
Springfield has to be completely deflated with this outcome. They finally managed to get the close, low-scoring game they needed against Syracuse and they couldn't break through Desjardins. Insult to injury is their PP going -2 in the process when they have the man advantage in the Third Period which is when you want to break open a close game.
Friday, Syracuse will try to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. For those players on the team who went through the run last year in Norfolk, SyraNo has won 16 straight playoff games going back to the series against the Connecticut Whale last year. Since then they have swept the IceCaps, Marlies, Pirates, and are 1 game away from sweeping away the Falcons. When you think how it takes 15 wins to get a Calder Cup under the current format, and the core of this group's won 16 in a row, it's pretty darn impressive.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for April 25 is … Syracuse’s Top Gun line (AHL – USA).
Tyler Johnson is sharing the wealth.
Johnson had a hat trick and seven total points (2 GP, 4-3-7) last week as the Crunch came off a week-long break with two wins over Springfield in Massachusetts. Syracuse holds a 2-0 series lead on the Falcons entering Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
Johnson has won our Prospect of the Week three times in the last six weeks and we’re running out of ways to say he’s good at the hockey, so we’re giving the award to his line, made up of Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik. The line was recently named the Top Gun line, though it has also been called the PTPer (Prime Time Players via Dick Vitale). Regardless of what people are calling it, the line is on fire.
Stacy Roest sees something in Cedric Paquette.
Roest, a developmental coaches working with the Syracuse Crunch practice squad, knows the transition from the junior to professional ranks means a faster pace and stronger competition.
But Paquette, the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2012 fourth-rounder, has the drive.
"He's the ultimate competitor," Roest said of Paquette. "He's a really high compete kid. He has a really good shot. His skating has to come a ways, but he's a good player."
The PTP'ers put on a special teams clinic.
Syracuse Leads the Series 2-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the win. Luv that goal support.
SYR Panik, (3) (Palat, Johnson), 1:02 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (2) (Brown), 1:15
SPR Russell, (1) (Audy-Marchessault, Prout), 14:40
SYR Johnson, (4) (Connolly, Palat), 8:31 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (5) , 14:05 (SH)
SPR Vogelhuber, (2) (Goloubef, Joudrey), 14:29
SYR Johnson, (6) (Panik, Palat), 6:47 (PP)
SPR Jenner, (2) (Holden, Audy-Marchessault), 8:04
Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. Johnson gets the hat trick and the PTP'er line ends up +4 in goal differential on special teams with 3 PP goals and a SH goal. No chance. Springfield's got no chance if they keep letting the Johnson line scorch them like this.
Syracuse now heads home with the 2-0 series lead and Springfield has no answers so far defensively, plus McElhinney's gotten torched through 2 games. Game Three is Wednesday night. Meanwhile, in the East's other series, Providence held serve at home and has a 2-0 series lead of the Penguins, making it look like a Syracuse/Providence matchup is on the horizon.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Syracuse draws first blood, and nearly hits an artery.
Syracuse Leads the Series 1-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the victory. Goal support is a beautiful thing.
SYR Barberio, (2) (Panik, Johnson), 8:40 (PP)
SYR Panik, (2) (Johnson, Palat), 9:00
SPR Drazenovic, (2) (Holden, Craig), 10:06 (PP)
SYR Brown, (2) (Wyman, Korobov), 11:26
SYR Connolly, (2) (Sexton, Taormina), 18:13
SYR Johnson, (3) (Palat), 10:10
SPR Craig, (1) (Holden, Johansen), 19:58 (PP)
Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars. In the marquee matchup between the AHL's best line over the past 1-1/2 years and a very good goaltender, Curtis McElhinney, round one goes to the PTP'ers. Interestingly, all three of Syracuse's lines clicked in the First Period clock cleaning that ended Game One early on, but make no mistake, this series comes down to whether McElhinney can make enough saves to keep games close and allow Springfield to leverage the goaltending advantage they have on paper. And, to do that, he has to stop Palat/Johnson/Panik.
Game Two is tomorrow night, and with home ice advantage already stolen away, Syracuse is playing with house money. A Game Two victory possibly means a short series, and in the war of attrition that is playoff hockey, that can pay big dividends in future rounds.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Although all the weight isn’t on their shoulders, the Syracuse Crunch’s top line knows its importance.
Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik have provided six of Syracuse’s 12 postseason goals, including two out of the four in each game. Those six markers include all three game-winners, two of which came in overtime.
With the No. 2 seed Falcons looming when the Eastern Conference Semifinals begin in Springfield Friday, the top line will be expected to do what it has done all season – produce points by the bunches in all situations.
"All three of those guys can fly," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "That's their best asset – they have speed. If you show that speed early and often, hopefully it will back off their defense and create some room in front of them as the series goes on."
With top seed in the East, Providence, narrowly escaping a first round scare against Hershey tonight, the schedule for the second round of the AHL playoffs is now set. Third seeded Syracuse will travel to second seed Springfield for the start of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup. Old-timers will recall the Falcons were once a Lightning affiliate before Tampa Bay began their productive affiliation with the Norfolk Admirals that ended after a Calder Cup campaign last season. The full series schedule will be as follows:
Eastern Conference Semifinal
SPRINGFIELD vs. SYRACUSE
Game 1 - Fri May 10 7:00 PM Syracuse at Springfield
Game 2 - Sat May 11 7:00 PM Syracuse at Springfield
Game 3 - Wed May 15 7:00 PM Springfield at Syracuse
Game 4 - Fri May 17 7:00 PM Springfield at Syracuse
Game 5 - Sat May 18 7:00 PM * Springfield at Syracuse
Game 6 - Tue May 21 7:00 PM * Syracuse at Springfield
Game 7 - Wed May 22 7:00 PM * Syracuse at Springfield
The Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to terms with center Cedric Paquette on a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. Paquette also signed an AHL ATO for the remainder of the season.
Paquette, 6-foot, 187 pounds, played in 63 games with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this past season, recording 27 goals, including six on the power-play, and 83 points with a plus-29 rating and 103 penalty minutes. He led the Armada for points, assists and shots on goal with 261, while ranking second for plus/minus and penalty minutes. Paquette was also fourth on the team in goals. He played in 15 postseason games, registering seven goals and 12 points. Paquette was tied for the team lead for goals and led for penalty minutes with 33.
Palat on the spot.
Syracuse Wins the Best-of-Five Series 3-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on just 18 shots for the victory. Once again, he allowed another wraparound goal that was on the soft side and once again the team bailed him out. Mind you, he made some incredible saves in Overtime to make up for it, but as the competition level rises in the next round Desjardins has got to get better.
POR Miele, (1) (Bolduc, Brown), 15:57 (PP)
SYR Gudas, (1) (Taormina, Sexton), 6:57 (PP)
POR Bolduc, (1) (Miele, Lessio), 0:19
POR Johnson, (2) (Stone, Conner), 10:47 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (1) (Wyman, Barberio), 13:59
SYR Palat, (2) (Connolly, Sustr), 18:48
SYR Palat, (3) (Taormina, Johnson), 19:43
Ondrej Palat was the game's first star. Oddly enough, I thought his first two games of the series were better than tonight, but he was in the right places at the right times for the two biggest goals of the series.
Let me tell you a little something about Brett Connolly, who turned 21 today and celebrated by knifing Portland in the heart late in regulation. Hopping on the ice as the sixth attacker to try to tie the game late in the Third Period, the puck came to Connolly who circled through the neutral zone and cut down the left wing boards into the offensive zone. For the life of me, I thought Portland's defenseman had the angle on Connolly at the blueline and would squeeze him off, or at least get enough of him to separate the puck. Nope. Connolly has deceptive speed a la Alex Killorn and he squirted by without being touched, went to circle behind the net, and just before he went behind dished a beautiful little backhand pass to Palat for the stuff. Tie game. What an individual play by Connolly. Truly cold blooded.
Let me also tell you a little something about faceoffs. Gudas' power play goal came directly from a bang-bang play off a faceoff win by Dan Sexton. And then, with just 17 seconds left in Overtime, Palat's second goal came off a faceoff win by Tyler Johnson that led to a Taormina shot that gave Palat the rebound he needed to send the Crunch to the first round pay window. Those quick plays off clean faceoff wins in the offensive zone are instant scoring chances, and almost as valuable as forcing turnovers out of your opponent.
It's not all good news, though. Although Syracuse outshot Portland 45-18, I suspect the scoring chances don't reflect the disparity. There was a distinct lack of GMT in this game for the Crunch. GMT = goal mouth thrills. Syracuse got a lot of traffic and a lot of greasy chances in the first two games of the series and they were absent tonight, with the exception of a few shifts by the Angelidis line. As the level of competition goes up in the next round, more GMT is required. If you don't muck it up in the high traffic areas, you invite a night like tonight where Portland's goaltender gobbled up a lot of clean, unscreened, undeflected shots.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference tonight, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished off their own sweep of Binghamton and Manchester won their first game of their series. Springfield still holds a 2-1 edge, but the series continues on. Top seed Providence is down 2-0 to Hershey. If either Providence or Springfield get upset (and Providence going down looks distinctly possible right now) Syracuse will get home ice for a second round series against the Penguins. Tough opponent. It'll be a great series.
Box score from TheAHL.com.