The hockey gods have spoken.
Norfolk Leads the Series 3-0
Dustin Tokarski stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout victory, his 3rd of the postseason. He had long stretches of inactivity and then had to deal with some difficult chances, because a lot of what Toronto does is below the goal line using their size. He's now 11-2-0 with 3 shutouts, a 1.49 GAA, and a .944 save percentage in the postseason. The big thing is, he's gotten better as the games have gotten bigger. He's only allowed 5 goals in the 7 games, thus far, of the Eastern Conference Finals and Calder Cup Finals. The defense in front of him has been exemplary, but he's made big saves when necessary.
NOR Kostka, (4) , 9:09
Mike Kostka and Tokarski were the game's second and third stars.
I could live another 100 years and I'll never see another game that important end on a play that fluky. You just witnessed once-in-a-lifetime, folks. For those who didn't see it, Mike Kostka tried to make a dump-in from the red line that hopped off the right wing boards in the Toronto zone, Scrivens departed his net to try to play the puck behind his cage, and the puck took a weird bounce straight off the glass and made a bee line right into the net. Unbelievable. Norfolk deserved to win this game. They hit three posts (actually four, because TJ had a double-poster) and really had Toronto on their heels most of the contest. But it almost seems like stealing to win it this way. Clearly, the hockey gods have selected their club in this series. When things like that happen, it's hard not to think you have the mantle of team of destiny.
Norfolk goes for the Cup clincher Saturday at 3 pm. As with tonight, all games from here on out will be televised on CBS Sports Network from the LeafsTV feed. If there's a Game Five, it'll be Sunday at 3 pm. At this stage, as deflating as that loss must've been for the Marlies, I would be surprised if there's another game in Norfolk this season.
I think you're going to see Norfolk stamp its claim as one of the greatest single season teams ever in AHL history this weekend. Ever. Between the regular season streak and the way they've been so good defensively in the postseason and, so far, unblemished in the Eastern Conference Finals and Calder Cup Finals, they belong in the conversation. On paper, you'd probably have to say that Hershey team from a couple of years ago is the front runner for that title, but this Admirals team has done/is doing some things not even that loaded Bears team could do. It's going to be interesting to see how this group gets put in historical perspective.
Note, the mere fact I just typed that considering Jon Cooper's only in his second year as a professional coach and there were 6 rookies in the lineup tonight for Norfolk, many of which were Norfolk's best players, speaks volumes about how special this group is and how exciting the coming years are going to be for Lightning fans as these young men continue to grow up and make their bids to be NHLers. Imagine, these guys are going to be added to the likes of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Kind of makes you smile inside, doesn't it?
Box score from TheAHL.com.