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.
Slovakia 4 vs. USA 1
Ben Bishop, USA, Loss, 22/25, 3.04 GAA, .880 sv%
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 3-2-0, 0 SO, 2.83 GAA, .876 sv%
Matt Carle, USA, 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 7 GP, 0-2-2, E, 0 PIM
Nate Thompson, USA, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 7 GP, 0-2-2, E, 8 PIM
Jaroslav Janus, Slovakia, DNP
Tournament totals: 2 GP, 0-2-0, 0 SO, 3.00 GAA, .875 sv%
What a letdown for the Americans. Controlling their destiny for the top spot in their pool, they fell hard to a hungry Team Slovakia 4-1. Jaroslav Janus did not suit up for the Slovakians.
USA falls to 3rd in their pool with the loss with Russia taking 2nd place on goal differential. Slovakia held onto the key 4th spot in the pool to make it into the medal round. In the other pool, surprising Switzerland won the top spot leaving Steven Stamkos and the Canadians in 2nd place.
The Quarterfinals are up next with USA ending up with an incredibly difficult draw in Team Russia. Slovakia gets home co-host Finland in their Quarterfinals matchup while the Canadians draw the other co-host nation, Sweden, in their next match. Had USA handled their business, they likely would have faced Germany in the Quarterfinals and been in much better position to medal. Such a shame.
Ontario Hockey League
(E2)Barrie Colts 2 @ (W1)London Knights 3
London wins best-of-7 OHL Finals, 4-3
D Jake Dotchin, BAR: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 17 GP, 1-4-5, +5, 25 PIM
Season totals: 66 GP, 4-18-22, E, 81 PIM
With Barrie: 28 GP, 2-6-8, -1, 42 PIM
With Owen Sound: 38 GP, 2-12-14, +1, 39 PIM
Likely 2013 first rounder Bo Horvat scored his second goal of the game with less than a second remaining in regulation to give the London Knights a come-from-behind series win and the OHL championship. Barrie was up 3-1 in the series over the favored Knights, but couldn’t close out the defending champs. Barrie’s loss means Lightning prospect Jake Dotchin is done for the year – the last drafted/signed Lightning prospect still playing outside the AHL. We will continue to follow Halifax’s Nate MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin through the Memorial Cup tournament. The Lightning could pick one of the two with the third overall pick in this summer’s draft. WHL Portland, London, and tournament host Saskatoon will join Halifax in the tournament.