It's a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the loss. He deserved better. He played a brilliant first period and definitely gave the Admirals a chance to win the game. Other than the Pens' third goal, he has nothing to be ashamed about.
WBS Conner, (20) (Wagner), 9:56 (SH)
WBS Johnson, (16) (Letestu), 15:46
WBS Lovejoy, (9) , 17:49 (PP)
Tokarski was named the game's third star. Norfolk actually played a pretty strong defensive game for 55 minutes and only came unglued after the shorthanded goal by Chris Conner. I thought Ty Wishart and Scott Jackson's pair was particularly strong, especially when compared to the last game against the Penguins.
Blair Jones may have a tough, sleepless night. He had a wide open chance in the slot on Thiessen that he missed by inches on the stick side when the game was 0-0 in the third that could have significantly altered the impact of the game. He later was involved in a vicious fight with Zach Sill in which both sides took some pretty big haymakers.
The damage in the standings is ugly. In fact, it's the nightmare scenario. 2nd place Albany thumped Adirondack 6-2, extending their lead on the Admirals back to 8 points, with Norfolk now holding 2 games in hand. Wilke-Barre/Scranton leapfrogged 1 point ahead of Norfolk into 3rd in the East Division, meaning the Admirals are now in peril from the crossover rule. Over in the Atlantic, Manchester defeated Lowell, so now the 3rd place Monarchs are 3 points up on Norfolk with a game in hand and the 4th place Devils are 2 points up on Norfolk. Even worse, 5th place Bridgeport moved into a tie with the Devils by beating Syracuse 5-2, so if the playoffs started right now, Norfolk would be out and Bridgeport would cross over into the East Division to play division champ Hershey.
Needless to say, Friday's game against the Pens is the most critical game of the year. With 8 games remaining this season, the Admirals can't afford to fall 3 points behind the Pens with the Pens holding a game in hand and feel good about their chances to get the 3rd seed in the division and avoid the crossover.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk gets shut out in the shootout.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 26 shots and 1 of 4 shooters to convert in the shootout session for the shootout loss.
BRI Haskins, (7) (Flood, Smith), 7:41
NOR Craig, (20) (Hall, Tyrell), 1:34
NOR Hall, (13) (Tyrell, Jackson), 3:34
BRI Haskins, (8) (Bentivoglio), 12:32
The luster is off the once perfect Juraj Simek in shootouts as he has been stopped in each of his last two attempts. The other Admirals who failed to convert were Justin Keller, Matt Fornataro, Blair Jones, and Mitch Fadden. Credit to Bridgeport goaltender Scott Monroe. Norfolk's shootout lineup is typically a murderer's row.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Don Simek is so money in shootouts it's painful.
BNG- 2 (SO)
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 37 shots and stopped 3 of 4 shooters to secure the shootout victory.
BNG Smith, (11) , 2:05 (SH)
NOR Bochenski, (21) (Simek, Tarkir), 7:53
BNG O'Brien, (5) , 16:05
NOR Jones, (7) (Simek, Lawrence), 2:05
NOR- Szczechura, Simek, Jones
Tokarski and Brandon Bochenski were the game's first and third stars.
Juraj Simek, the Don of the Presov Mafia, remained perfect in shootout attempts this season to go along with his pair of regulation helpers. His enforcer, Vladimir Mihalik, was +2 in the game. That pushes Mihalik's +/- for the month of February to +11 with one more game left this month. He's been +2 or better in 5 of 10 games in that span. Mihalik's career best season was a +9 set in his rookie season, and he is now at +8 so far this year.
Blair Jones scored his first goal since being reassigned from Tampa Bay and scored the clinching goal in the shootout session to send the paying faithful in Binghamton to their automobiles.
Mark Parrish missed tonight's game after getting nicked in the game against Adirondack. He is questionable for tomorrow, as is whether Interim Head Coach Leigh Mendelson will ride Tokarski for a third straight game, insert PTO Matt Lundin, or if the Lightning will FedEx Jaroslav Janus to Syracuse in time for the key 4-point matchup.
It was a critical win for Norfolk because almost all of their competition in the East Division playoff race won tonight. 2nd place Albany beat Manchester 5-2 to stay 2 points up on Norfolk with 1 game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton dismantled Providence 5-1 to stay 6 points back of Norfolk with 3 games in hand. 5th place Adirondack pulled out a 3-2 shootout win against Lowell to stay 8 points back of Norfolk with 2 games in hand. 6th place Syracuse was the only team that didn't keep pace. They fell 2-1 to Springfield and are now 10 points back of the Admirals with 3 games in hand. If Norfolk can beat the Crunch tomorrow afternoon, it may be the straw that breaks their back. Binghamton is done. They're 18 points back with 5 games in hand, but they're also 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. Which team needs a fork stuck in them? Bingo is their name-o.
In the crossover, Hershey beat 5th place Atlantic Division team Bridgeport like the Sound Tigers had stolen a large sum of money from Chocolate Town. The 9-2 spanking drops Bridgeport 5 points back of Norfolk. 6th place Providence falls 7 points back of Norfolk with 2 games in hand. They are now tied in points with Hartford, which lost 2-1 to Portland in overtime. Hartford has 1 game in hand on the Admirals. So, the Admirals did gain ground in the crossover. If Norfolk were to drop to 4th in the East Division, they must finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to make the postseason.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk caps the Mother of All Road Trips with a 13 round shootout victory. They finish their long journey 6-0-1, undefeated in regulation.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 37 shots before stopping 9 of 13 shooters in the penalty shot session for the victory in his first shootout as a pro.
NOR Fornataro, (5) (Wishart, Craig), 14:58 (PP)
BRI Haley, (4) (Gannon), 16:11
NOR- Jones, Fadden, Simek, Cruthers, Wishart
BRI- Smith, Mauldin, Moore, Haskins
Ty Wishart and Tokarski were named the game's first and third stars. Amazingly, this was only the second shootout of the season for Norfolk. They sure did get their money's worth, though, by going 13 rounds. I said in the NHL recap the other night when the Lightning played the Ducks that shootouts usually aren't that exciting. Well, trust me, this one was exciting.
Norfolk came out very strong in the first period and could've easily had a 3-0 lead after the opening frame were it not for how well Bridgeport's goaltender, Scott Munro, played. In particular, I though the line of Ryan Craig, Blair Jones, and Dana Tyrell were excellent on the forecheck in that period and throughout the game. As the game progressed though, the Admirals started to tire and they were dragging mightily by the time overtime came around. This was their 7th road game in 10 days, and it's a testament to their conditioning that they rose to the occassion and pulled out wins these past couple of days.
Mitch Fadden is electric with the puck in space, and he had the cold blooded trigger finger of an assassin in the shootout tonight. If he can just bulk up to help him be stronger on the puck along the wall, he's got a chance to be a really good NHL player.
The victory pushes Norfolk back to .500 for the season at 23-23-3 with 49 points. For the moment, they hold third place in the North Division outright by 2 points with 4th place Adirondack locked in a 1-1 tie at Rochester as of this posting. 5th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton kept pace with a 3-1 win over Manitoba, and remain 3 points back of the Admirals with 2 games in hand. 6th place Syracuse, which is now 5 points back of Norfolk, is idle and will gain a game in hand. Last place Binghamton is down 1-0 to Hershey as of this posting and have now fallen 7 points behind Norfolk. Binghamton will have 4 games in hand on Norfolk, but they're in danger of losing their 4th game in a row and falling out of the chase.
Norfolk has also moved within 3 points of Hartford and Bridgeport, which are tied at 52 points for 5th in the Atlantic Division. Norfolk holds 2 games in hand on Bridgeport, but none on Hartford. If the 4th place team in the East finishes ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic, they will get in and nullify the possibility of a crossover.
Norfolk's big schedule advantage is that they now have 20 home games and just 11 road games remaining. They are 4 games under .500 at home and 4 games over .500 on the road. Traditionally, though, The Scope has been one of the toughest places to play in the AHL, and if the Admirals can regain their superiority there they should be in fantastic shape. Norfolk will get their first home test under Head Coach Jim Johnson Wednesday. It will be a big one, as they face Hershey, which has been the class of the league for much of the past two seasons.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Canadian AHL All-Stars 10 @ Planet USA All-Stars 9 (SO)
Blair Jones, Canadian AHL All-Stars, 0-1-1, -2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Jones assisted on Jason Jaffray's game opening goal and led all Canadian AHL All-Stars in shots with 7. Tyler Ennis, a Buffalo prospect, was named the game's MVP after scoring 1 goal and 2 assists for the Canadians, including a helper on the game-tying goal with 18 seconds left in regulation.