Crunch Win 4-2, Push Pirates to Brink

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It all started with the physical play.

Coming off a come-from-behind overtime win one night earlier, the Syracuse Crunch made a point to continue pounding the Portland Pirates.

It didn't take long -- less than 10 minutes -- for the results to show up on the scoreboard. Ondrej Palat's wrister beat Pirates goalie Chad Johnson, giving the Crunch an early lead.

"He's finishing checks and hammering guys, then he goes and scores the first goal for us," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler of Palat.

Palat and Tyler Johnson each provided a goal and an assist, leading the Crunch to a 4-2 win over the Pirates in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday. Syracuse leads the best-of-five series 2-0, with the teams meeting again in Portland Thursday.

"By no means is the series over," Zettler said. "(It's) another cliche, but the last one is the hardest one."

Unlike the night before, the Crunch jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first, with Palat and JT Brown each notching a goal.

"I just shot low-blocker and it went in," said Palat, who has five points in the series.

"Overall, we were carrying the play," Zettler said. "We were in their face and finishing every check we had a chance to."

Johnson and Brett Connolly each scored in the second, providing Syracuse with a 4-0 lead with a little more than 25 minutes remaining. Matt Taormina, Mike Angelidis, JT Wyman, Dan Sexton and Philip-Michael Devos each finished with an assist.

A few moments after the Connolly goal, a hit that drove Palat into the end boards started a fracas. Jean-Philippe Cote and Richard Panik each received fighting majors, with Panik tossed for a secondary altercation.

"We're a team that sticks together," Cote said. "Guys go after my boy (Palat) and I see red."

Looking to rally, Portland's Brandon Gormley responded with a goal in the closing minutes of the second, and Nick Johnson scored midway through the third.

With the goalie pulled and Angelidis in the box, the Crunch clawed out the final few minutes to hang on for the win. Syracuse goalie Cedrick Desjardins finished with 18 saves, while his counterpart, Chad Johnson, made 30.

"At the end there, you see Cote blocking shots, you see Brown blocking shots," Zettler said, "That's huge."

Pictured: Crunch forward Ondrej Palat celebrates after his first period goal against the Pirates at the Onondaga County War Memorial Sunday.