Richard Panik was in the right place at the right time.
The Syracuse Crunch forward, stationed just outside the Rochester Americans' crease, watched as the puck trickled away from a sprawling David Leggio.
"I was standing on the goal line and I tapped it in," Panik said.
With the game tied, the tide seemed to turn in the Crunch's favor.
But that feeling was brief.
Before the goal was finished being announced, Rochester retook the lead on a Rick Schofield goal. The Americans scored three more times before the Crunch could respond, as Syracuse fell 5-3 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
Danick Gauthier started the season as the odd man out.
With the Syracuse Crunch already loaded with talented forwards and further enhanced with players being sent down from Tampa Bay as a result of the NHL lockout, the rookie had trouble cracking the lineup.
Crunch coach Jon Cooper told Gauthier to expect to be sit out most nights, and the 21-year-old suited up for just 10 games in the first three months of the season.
"It was hard to be scratched almost every game, but I just kept working in practices, and I got a couple chances," Gauthier said.
"Every chance I got on the ice, I needed to make a good impression for the coaches," the Quebec-native added.
For Mike Angelidis, one of the strengths of the Syracuse Crunch is its ability to remain positive.
Down by a goal in the third period to the Norfolk Admirals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday, the Crunch captain knew if his team poured on the pressure, it would find the game-tying goal.
Syracuse outshot Norfolk 23-4 in the third, finding the equalizer midway through the frame and and ultimately winning the game, 3-2, in the shootout. The Crunch has won five straight and seven of its last eight.
"It gets frustrating when you keep shooting the puck and missing the net or they're blocking shots," Angelidis said. "It's frustrating, but if you keep playing the game and you stay positive, good things happen."
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 20 shots before stopping 2 of 4 shooters in the penalty shot session to secure the win.
NOR Palmieri, (12) (Holland), 2:32 (PP)
NOR Palmieri, (13) , 7:34 (PP)
SYR Gauthier, (4) (Conacher, Killorn), 15:57
SYR Labrie, (8) (Korobov, Angelidis), 13:16
NOR- Holland, Etem
SYR- Wyman, Palat, Nightingale, Panik
Jared Nightingale and Danick Gauthier were the game's first and third stars. Both may be called on to shoulder a bigger load with the NHL lockout over with.
Those looking for clues on who might go up to Tampa for the abbreviated training camp got very few from tonight's lineup. Perhaps tomorrow's game against Rochester will help yield a better picture with camps around the NHL set to open on Sunday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Seeing that there were only four men on the ice after the first Syracuse Crunch line change, Philip-Michael Devos quickly jumped on the ice to join the play.
The center accepted a pass from Richard Panik and fed it to an open Tyler Johnson, who fired the puck past Hershey Bears goalie Braden Holtby to give the Crunch a one-goal lead less than a minute into the game.
"I looked and there were only four guys on the ice, so I'm going to go," Devos said. "I jumped on, and four seconds later, the puck was in the net."