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With time winding down in overtime, Slater Koekkoek made a bold prediction.
The Syracuse Crunch defenseman was next to hit the ice during the three-on-three portion of the extra session, but took a moment to tell fellow rookie Dylan Blujus that he would end the game.
Koekkoek's words proved to be prophetic, as his game-winner 4:52 into overtime lifted the Crunch to a 2-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. Syracuse has won four straight.
"Blujus and I were sitting on the bench, and (assistant coach Trent) Cull had just said I was the next D out," Koekkoek said. "I looked over at Blue and I said 'Don't worry Blue, I got this one.'"
Tampa Bay's ownership of the Atlantic Division version of the Red Wings continues unabated.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. Again, with a playoff-type atmosphere and caliber of opponent, Bishop laid down a marker that he's going to be a serious postseason player.
1:22 TB Stralman (7), (Hedman, Palat)
6:57 DET Tatar (26), (unassisted)(PP)
10:31 TB Killorn (15), (Hedman, Drouin)
19:32 TB Stamkos (40), (Boyle, Palat)(EN)
Bishop and Victor Hedman were the game's first and second stars.
Hedman was a beast, and was the best player on the rink, in my opinion. Very active diffusing plays at the defensive end of the rink and showed a lot of speed and savvy on the rush all game long. He probably should've had a goal on a 2-on-1 with Drouin early in the game that would've made his stat line even more impressive. As it was, he settled for two helpers. Steven Stamkos wasn't as dominant as Hedman all game long, but he dominated Kronwall to get the insurance goal at the end. Don't you wish you had the talent to be a "little off" most of the season, and still hit 40 goals with 10 games left to play? Just to make sure I fully and thoroughly beat the horse to death: when those two are the Lightning's best players, the Lightning can't be defeated.
Meanwhile, Drej Palat emerged from the hyperbaric chamber and sneezed out a couple of helpers of his own. Just chill, until the next episode.
The Lightning are now 1 point shy of the preseason target of 96 points to comfortably make the playoffs. The victory also pulled Tampa Bay to within 2 points of Montreal for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with neither team holding a game in hand. Remember, a tie almost certainly goes to the Lightning on ROW.
Vladislav Namestnikov played 12:51 in the match. I'm shocked how blank his scoresheet looks, because he was noticable on the rink tonight.
Syracuse goes Koekkoek in Overtime.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 28 points for the victory. That's just 1 goal allowed in the last couple of games.
SYR Gourde, (25) (Dotchin, Courtnall), 8:17
WBS Kostopoulos, (14) (Pouliot), 11:22
SYR Koekkoek, (4) (Marchessault), 4:52
Slater Koekkoek and Gudlevskis were the game's first and second stars. If you look at the last 11 games, Slater has 1 goal and 9 points in that span, with a +6 rating. He's definitely turned a corner in his development in the past few weeks, as he's now sprinkling in the offensive contributions with his reasonably steady defensive play.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Ontario Hockey League
Erie Otters 7 @ Windsor Spitfires 4
W Cristiano DiGiacinto, WSR: 0-0-0, -4, 0 PIM
Season totals: 61 GP, 21-23-44, -13, 100 PIM
2013-14 totals: 50 GP, 17-11-28, +8, 101 PIM
Likely 2015 top-5 picks Connor McDavid (3 assists) and Dylan Strome (1+3) combined for seven points in front of a sellout crowd in Windsor, leading the Otters to a 7-4 win. Windsor has been eliminated from playoff contention, which makes DiGiacinto available for AHL Syracuse or ECHL Florida should the Lightning want him to keep playing.
Western Hockey League
Red Deer Rebels 2 @ Calgary Hitmen 3 (OT)
D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 7-24-31, +15, 26 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 7-24-31, +11, 39 PIM
Calgary is one point ahead of Medicine Hat for the division title with both teams still to play twice. Medicine Hat has last place Saskatoon for two and Calgary has seventh place Kootenay.