Norfolk clings to 4th in the East Division by the slimmest of margins.
Jaroslav Janus shined making 42 saves in the overtime loss. He's allowed just 5 goals on 86 shots (.953 sv%) since spelling Dustin Tokarski against Hershey when Tic got cut with a skate. All of a sudden, he's playing under control and serving notice to the new organization why the old organization was so high on him. He's also finally justifying that #11 ranking he currently holds here on BoltProspects.
BNG Benoit, (11) (Daugavins, Smith), 11:46 (PP)
NOR Ritola, (8) (Jones, Mihalik), 16:01
BNG O'Brien, (24) (Condra, Greening), 3:48
Janus was the game's third star.
Blair Jones has points in 9 straight games. Mattias Ritola has points in 7 straight and 8 goals and 17 points over that span, including 6 multi-point games. Tonight was the first time since 2/26/11 that Ritola didn't have a multi-point effort.
Norfolk climbs to within 2 points of 3rd place Charlotte with 1 game in hand on the Checkers. They also now hold a slim 1 point lead over the 5th place Senators with 1 game in hand on Binghamton. If a crossover scenario were to occur, Norfolk could get the 3rd seed in the Atlantic Division if they finish with more points than the 3rd place Connecticut Whale. They now have a 5 point lead on Connecticut with 3 games left to go for each club, so they could easily clinch no worse than the 3 seed in the Atlantic in their upcoming games against the East Division's 6th place team, Syracuse.
Norfolk draws Syracuse tomorrow night and again on Saturday night before closing out the regular season on Sunday in Hartford against the Whale. Charlotte draws the now eliminated Worcester Sharks on Friday and again on Saturday. Binghamton goes to Rochester (7th in the North Division) on Friday and finishes at home against Adirondack (7th in the East Division) on Saturday. So, Norfolk likely will need 4 out of 6 possible points to hold off Binghamton for 4th, and they may need to run the table and hope Worcester can take at least a point away from Charlotte to get to 3rd place. 2 more points earned or lost by Connecticut will clinch no worse than the 3 seed in the Atlantic via the crossover. In that scenario, Norfolk would face Manchester. Unfortunately for Norfolk, their three most likely matchups (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey, or Manchester) happen to be the 3 best defensive teams in the Eastern Conference in terms of goals allowed. Great.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.
A magical night in Charlotte for Jones and the Admirals.
Jaroslav Janus rose up and played his best AHL game of the season stopping 21 of 23 shots, including a Brett Sutter penalty shot, to take his first win as an Admiral this season. He kept the Admirals where they needed to be through the first two periods and then made sure to make the last stop or two the team needed to pull away at the end. What Mike Smith was for the Lightning against Chicago last night, Janus was for the Admirals tonight.
NOR Ritola, (6) (Pouliot, Barberio), 7:54 (PP)
CHA Terry, (33) (Sanguinetti, Matsumoto), 12:30 (PP)
NOR Labrie, (6) (Wright, Berry), 7:56
CHA Sanguinetti, (3) (Graham, Matsumoto), 13:18 (PP)
NOR Jones, (22) (Pouliot, Milam), 18:49 (PP)
NOR Ritola, (7) (Jones, Pouliot), 0:36 (PP)
NOR Jones, (23) (Ritola), 7:40
Blair Jones is now the Norfolk Admirals' all-time leading scorer. He tied and then destroyed the record with a 3 point night that now leaves him just 3 points shy of his career high in points, despite the fact he set that mark in 80 games in 2008-2009 and he's played just 52 games this year. Jones has always been a BoltProspects favorite since his days with Moose Jaw and his rookie season with Springfield in the AHL. Through all the ups and downs of his professional career, he's kept getting better and climbing the ladder. To surpass some of the most beloved Admirals in the history of that franchise to claim the mantle of leading scorer is truly impressive and special.
His new line, with Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Mattias Ritola showed tonight it could be one of the league's best going into the playoffs. Ritola also had a 3 point night and now has 22 points in 13 AHL games this year. For his part, Pouliot climbed to 6th in the AHL in scoring with 69 points in 65 games.
Mark Barberio got point 29 tonight. He needs 1 more point in the 4 games remaining this week to reach the 30 point plateau.
Norfolk pulls to within 3 points of the Checkers for 3rd in the East Division with 2 games in hand, and now holds a 2 point edge over Binghamton with 1 game in hand. More to the point, the Admirals magic number for making the postseason is now 1 point. With a 6 point lead over Worcester and just 3 games remaining for the Sharks, any combination of a point gained by the Admirals or a point lost by Worcester will clinch a playoff berth for the Admirals by, at a minimum, the crossover rule. Interesting note about the crossover rule, if Norfolk were to crossover they could gain the 3rd seed in the Atlantic Division if they can continue to lead the Atlantic's 3rd place team, the Connecticut Whale. However, for tonight, the crossover seems like an afterthought for a team that controls its destiny to climb into the #3 spot in the division.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
54 minutes of garbage followed by the awakening of a long slumbering giant.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 4 goals on 39 shots for the loss.
07:11 TB Gagne (13), St Louis (60), Lecavalier (24)(PP)
12:52 CAR Skinner (26), Ruutu (32), Pitkanen (29)
08:23 CAR Cole (21), Stillman (22), Staal (37)(PP)
06:50 CAR Cole (22), unassisted
12:20 CAR Staal (30), Corvo (25), Pitkanen (30)(PP)
13:17 TB Lecavalier (20), Hedman (22)
14:09 TB Gagne (14), St Louis (61), Clark (21)(PP)
Simon Gagne was the game's second star.
That was painful and ugly to watch for about 54 minutes, and then the Lightning got a tip to go their way and it was, "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war." It looked as if the Lightning finally got sick of getting kicked in the ribs and decided to rise up and try to do something about it. Maybe I'm an optimist, but those last 6 minutes looked like a turning point to me. Time will tell, but I saw the Lightning play with a tempo and urgency that hasn't been seen in a while. Not that the Lightning haven't been playing hard, but they haven't been playing THAT hard in a while.
Congratulation to Vincent Lecavalier on his 11th straight 20 goal season. In doing so he's accomplished something that many a Hall of Famer couldn't. Steve Yzerman? His career best was 8 straight seasons. Jean Beliveau? 7 seasons. Mario Lemieux? 6 seasons. With injuries and in a sport where teams change personnel like they're pairs of socks, it's really difficult to string that many 20 goal seasons. When you throw in the fact that 2/3rds of Vinny's career was played in the pre-lockout clutch and grab era, it's even more amazing that he could stay healthy enough and get enough chances to complete the feat when facing nightly muggings.
It's ironic that Lecavalier has faced so much criticism over the course of his career for a presumed lack of consistent effort or interest, but 11 straight 20 goal seasons suggests that any critique of Lecavalier's career to this point needs a little more depth and nuance than that because the stats speak to a level of professionalism he hasn't always been given credit for. Let me put it another way: if Vinny had played the last month the way Steven Stamkos has, there would've been at least 3 dozen rumors of various trades to Montreal and a segment of the Lightning fan base ready to tar and feather him before putting him on an airplane out of town. Ultimately, there's an easy way for Vinny to complete his legacy in Tampa Bay: captain this team to a Stanley Cup. I've just always found it a little bizarre how much higher the bar has been set for Vinny and that he doesn't seem to get the full measure of respect, not just in Tampa but league-wide, for accomplishments that are almost unheard of in this era of hockey.
Blair Jones was -2 in 5:59.
Rock bottom (?)
Dwayne Roloson allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss, including a softie to Frans Nielsen that would've made Dieter Kochan himself blush.
01:01 TB Thompson (9), Purcell (31), Lecavalier (23)
10:22 NYI Bailey (11), Jurcina (12)(PP)
05:16 NYI Okposo (5), Jurcina (13), Grabner (17)
13:39 NYI Martin (5), Hillen (16), Konopka (7)
08:08 NYI Nielsen (11), unassisted(SH)
10:31 TB Moore (14), Bergenheim (15), Thompson (14)(PP)
19:14 NYI Grabner (31), unassisted(SH)(EN)
Nate Thompson was the game's second star.
This feels like last season, and that's not a good thing. The Lightning could not buy a win at this time late last season and fell like a rock out of the playoff hunt. With 9 games left to go, the Lightning have an 11 point lead on 9th place, but even that doesn't feel safe with 3 games against the Canes on the schedule. The division is gone. An opportunity to hang a banner has been squandered. Right now, the Lightning just need a win, any win, to try to stabilize their sagging fortunes, and it feels like the team won't be able to beat anyone until Steve Downie or Ryan Malone return to the lineup. The Lightning look stale and lost, and it feels like only a shakeup in the lineup will work. Nobody can find the back of the net. Stupid decisions keep getting made defensively. And, now, you even have the likes of Sean Bergenheim making undisciplined plays and Roloson giving up Dairy Queen Blizzards. It's a near total collapse, and I don't care if the Lightning outshot the Islanders 38-28 if you keep giving up shorthanded 2-on-0's, the number of shots matters little.
Blair Jones had 3 shots and 2 blocked shots in 10:42.
Mattias Ritola will have to wait to graduate from prospect status next season.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the overtime loss.
06:32 TB Lecavalier (19), Thompson (13)
07:42 TB Tyrell (6), Bergenheim (14)
12:27 OTT Shannon (9), Condra (3), Karlsson (30)(SH)
16:05 OTT Foligno (12), Smith (4), Neil (10)
03:28 OTT Spezza (16), Karlsson (31)
Roloson was the game's third star.
The Lightning took their foot off the gas after gaining a 2 goal lead and their now customary power play implosion to allow a shortie led to a Senators team that had half of Binghamton's roster on it to come back and steal a point in the standings the Lightning desperately needed. Now the Lightning are 5 points back of the Caps with 1 game in hand in the Division, which even if the Lightning cash in their game in hand means the spread is now, essentially, 2 games because Washington has the tiebreaker pretty much sewn up (barring absolute collapse). It's a sickening feeling. The Lightning have no one to blame but themselves. The schedule set up nicely. They had Ottawa under control tonight. If there's not a Division Championship banner going to the rafters next Fall, they've got nobody to point the finger at. This is the very definition of a choke, and now, with 10 games left in the regular season, the sights may need to be lowered to trying to catch Pittsburgh to at least get home ice in the opening round.
We lost 2 games to Curtis flipping McElhinney. Let that sink in, Lightning fans.
Vincent Lecavalier is now 1 goal shy of the 20 goal plateau, which would be his 11th straight 20 goal season. We'll have more on that when/if he gets to 20, but let's just say Lecavalier's consistency in hitting 20 goals is the stuff of Hall of Famers and legends.
Mattias Ritola had 1 hit in 8:22. In case you're wondering, Ritola has to play in each of the remaining 10 games this year to graduate as a prospect from BoltProspects' prospect list. One scratch and he'll have to wait until next season, where he'll likely move over to the 82 career NHL games graduation path, which is more of a graduate level degree from the School of Hard Knocks (see: Downie, Steve).
Blair Jones had 4 shots in 9:02 and probably should have had a goal in the opening period. It's a shame, in retrospect, he couldn't finish.