Admirals come back to take first place in the East Division.
NOR 3 (SO)
Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 21 shots before stopping 7 of 9 in the penalty shot session for the shootout win.
SYR Gordon (1), (Holzapfel, Cumiskey)(PP), 11:36
SYR Gordon (2), (Holzapfel), 0:19
NOR Barberio (7), (Johnson), 7:16
NOR Panik (12), (Palat, Barberio)(PP), 9:02
SYR- Jacques, Holland
NOR- Kostka, Johnson, Ouellet
With under 14 minutes to go, it looked like the Admirals were going to get tripped up again in the back-to-back scenario against the same opponent. It's a challenge NCAA coaches have been fighting against forever, and it's a unique challenge to Norfolk because of the team's geographical location relative to the rest of the league. But then the Admirals came back and did their thing, finally outshooting Syracuse 43-21 and making sure they got the 2 points they needed for the sellout crowd at Scope.
With the Penguins losing to Albany, the Admirals moved out to a 2 point lead in the East Division with the win, and they maintain a 3 point edge on Hershey, as the Bears defeated the Monarchs today. The Penguins do hold 1 game in hand on the Admirals and the Bears hold 2 games in hand. But, for the moment, the Admirals are where they need to be to have the best chance of success heading toward the postseason. Norfolk is off until next Friday, when they start their weekend road swing against Binghamton. They then have critical matchups against Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
And, Nacho kicks the extra point!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the victory. Much like Dwayne Roloson against the Sharks last night, here's a young man who loves his goal support. Despite his ugly save percentage on the night, by collecting his 23rd win of the year, Tic moved back into a tie with Peoria's Ben Bishop for the league lead in wins.
NOR Kostka, (8) (Johnson, Smith), 2:43 (SH)
SYR Holzapfel, (9) (Jacques, Caputi), 5:07 (PP)
SYR McMillan, (8) (Sexton, Carle), 9:37
NOR Johnson, (18) (Conacher, Fornataro), 16:11 (PP)
NOR Picard, (3) (Smith, Palat), 19:16 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (29) (Oberg, Barberio), 5:45
SYR Holzapfel, (10) (Gordon), 5:58
NOR Angelidis, (12) (Kostka), 9:57 (SH)
NOR Smith, (21) (Kostka, Oberg), 12:00 (PP)
NOR Labrie, (12) (Dimmen, Conacher), 13:00
SYR Schofield, (7) (Palmieri), 14:40
Mike Kostka and Trevor Smith were the game's first and second stars. Kostka, for the moment, sits in a tie for 5th amongst all defensemen at 31 points in 48 games. Mark Barberio still paces the field at 43 points in 51 games, and he's opened up a 4 point gap on second place.
Lost in the sizable shadow of Kostka and Barberio, though, has been the play of suitcase virtuoso Evan Oberg (pictured). He now has 16 points in 33 games this season, but the bulk of those points have come recently. He has 10 points in his last 10 contests, which is impressive while pulling dual duty in between his role as the Mayor of Concourse B at Norfolk International Airport.
Ondrej Palat has 5 points in his last 4 games. Impressive, but Tyler Johnson raised Palat with 7 points over the same span. It took nearly 5 months, but Johnson has run down fellow rookie Carter Ashton in both points and goals. The two are now knotted up at 18 goals a piece and TJ's now moved 1 point ahead of Ashton at 35 for the season.
Lapping the entire field of rookies, league-wide, is phenom Cory Conacher. His 29 goals and 60 points are 4th amongst all scorers, and his tally tonight moved him out of a 3-way tie for the top spot in goals. Consider the possibilities, Lightning fans. The organization could have the goal scoring champions at both the NHL and AHL levels in the same season. That's quite the feather in the Lightning's cap.
Norfolk's victory allows them to keep pace with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the top spot in the East Division, and by virtue of Hershey losing a 6-0 decision to Providence, they've opened up a 3 point lead on the third place Bears. Winning the East Division looks like it may be CRITICAL to the Admirals' chances come the playoffs. They want to avoid a possible 4/5 matchup against the Bears or Penguins in the first round and get a less experienced club from the Atlantic or Northeast in the first round, instead.
The Admirals rematch Syracuse tomorrow. As always, we stress how difficult it is to beat the same team on back-to-back nights, especially when you thump them the first night. Let's see if Norfolk has learned that lesson yet.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
That's all, folks?
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the loss. He also stopped a Kyle Turris penalty shot in the contest.
OTT Karlsson (10), (Spezza, Butler), 1:04
OTT Spezza (23), (Kuba, Karlsson)(PP), 16:32
OTT Spezza (24), (Butler, Michalek), 12:37
OTT Spezza (25), (Gonchar)(EN), 18:58
You got the sense the Spezza goal that got the score in this game to 3-0 really made reality set in for the Lightning. They can't afford to be losing back-to-back games right now and they can't afford to be losing 4-point games against teams they're competing against for position in the conference, and they just did both. With the loss, you'd have to expect the Lightning to be sellers at the deadline with several potential UFA's as rental opportunities for playoff-bound teams like Pavel Kubina, Dominic Moore, and Brett Clark. Unfortunately for the Lightning, it's difficult to envision them finding pieces such as a goaltender or some more Mikkelson-esque defensemen to receive in return to help rebuild the roster.
I will be interested to see how the post-deadline roster looks, and whether the Lightning will give some prospects in Norfolk an extended look before the end of the year. Particularly, I'd like to see Mark Barberio get a chance against NHL speed to see where he's at, particularly in his own third. The Lightning need d-men almost as much as they need a goaltender, and it seems foolish not to use this time to diagnose a guy who is currently the AHL's leading scorer amongst d-men.
The other thing is that Guy Boucher might just need to throw caution to the wind at some point, accept the mistakes young #14 is going to make, and start feeding Brett Connolly some scoring line ice time. If the Lightning can get a guy like Connolly or one of their other forward prospects to a point they feel more comfortable about them next season, it'll make it more comfortable for them to deal a veteran forward like Ryan Malone, assuming he'd allow it, to get some defense or goaltending help.
The good news is that I'm optimistic this season is a pot hole and not a ditch. There's a lot of good talent in the system, and the Lightning really are just 2-3 players away from being right back to elite status. And, no, those players aren't Scott Stevens and Patrick Roy. But, they do need to be guys who are a better fit for the current system and are a lot more clutch than what the current group has shown this year.
J.T. Wyman was -1 in 5:26.
Laying the smacketh down.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 25 shots but got a wee bit more goal support than last night to carry him to his 21st win of the year. That matches Tic's win total from all of last season and he now will zero in on his career mark of 27 wins set in his rookie campaign as his next milestone to beat.
NOR Panik, (11) (Palat, Johnson), 2:48
NOR Kostka, (7) (Barberio, Palat), 4:36 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (26) (Barberio, Panik), 5:07 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (27) (Smith, Johnson), 8:20 (PP)
ADK Brown, (6) (Klotz, Kessel), 4:23
NOR Angelidis, (11) (Picard, Cote), 3:31
ADK Kalinski, (9) (Manning, Akeson), 4:02
NOR Smith, (19) (Labrie, Ashton), 13:23
ADK Manning, (3) (Kessel, Holmstrom), 14:38 (PP)
NOR Johnson, (16) (Fornataro, Devos), 17:36
Phantoms d-man Cullen Eddy messed with the bull and got the horns, earning a game misconduct for elbowing rookie phenom Conacher. The Ads proceeded to score 3 power play goals on the subsequent 5 minute major, including 2 by Conacher himself.
Conacher did not manage a hat trick, but, by virtue of an assist added on Conacher's first goal, Richard Panik posted a first period Gordie Howe hat trick for the opening goal, a power play assist, and then a fight with ex-Admiral Dan Jancevski. When Panik attacks, Adirondack trembles.
Barberio crossed the 40 point threshold with his 2 power play helpers tonight. He's now at 41 points in 48 games, pushing him 2 points ahead of Brian Connelly of Abbotsford for the lead amongst d-men. For his part, Mike Kostka has quietly pushed up into a tie for 11th amongst d-men in scoring with 27 points in 45 games.
Norfolk picks up 1 point on Hershey, which fell in a shootout tonight, and keeps pace with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. So, the Ads are 1 point back of the Bears and 4 points back of the Pens in the division. Both the Bears and Pens hold a game in hand on Norfolk. Norfolk heads to Charlotte tomorrow to face the Midwest Division (don't ask) leading Checkers.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
When Slovakians attack...
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 26 shots and stopped 9 of 10 in the penalty shot session for the win. He came into the game in relief of Dustin Tokarski who unceremoniously allowed all 3 shots he faced into the net before getting the hook.
NOR Johnson, (14) (Ashton, Conacher), 0:39
CT Deveaux, (12) (Newbury, Christensen), 1:26 (PP)
CT Tanski, (3) (Tessier), 3:49
CT Bourque, (3) (Tessier, Parlett), 6:33
NOR Palat, (3) , 3:58
NOR Ashton, (16) (Panik, Jackson), 6:10
NOR Conacher, (24) (Kostka), 6:28 (PP)
CT Tanski, (4) (Grant, Owens), 8:13
Richard Panik was the first star of the game. He assisted Carter Ashton on the goal to tie the game at 3-3, got cheap shotted by Aaron Voros shortly thereafter, but got his revenge with the tenth round shootout winner. I'm rather shocked Janus didn't get a star, but both he and his countryman Panik were very worthy tonight. In his last 10 games, the AHL is feeling the Panik attack to the tune of 5 goals and 9 points.
For those wondering, although not 100%, Mark Barberio did dress and play tonight. I'm not the official BP Tweetmeister, but if I were: #goodnewsforachange
Norfolk's trip to the pay window moves them to within 2 points of Hershey in the division with the Bears holding a game in hand. Norfolk draws Charlotte at Scope on Tuesday night. The Checkers have been one of the best teams in the Western Conference (don't ask) this season, so Norfolk will have their work cut out for them.
Box score from TheAHL.com.