It took Ondrej Palat eight seconds to change the complexion of the game, and less than eight minutes to deal the knockout blow.
The forward scored a shorthanded goal in the opening seconds of the third period to give the Syracuse Crunch a two-goal lead, then set up Tyler Johnson for another shorthanded goal at the 7:24 mark.
The two goals on the penalty kill allowed the Crunch to cruise to a 3-0 win over the Springfield Falcons in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday. Syracuse leads the series 3-0, and can move on with a win Friday.
"He was a difference-maker in the third period," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler of Palat. "He made an unbelievable play shorthanded to make it 2-0, and followed it up with an unbelievable pass to Johnson to make it 3-0."
Springfield just has no answers for Syracuse's top line. None.
Syracuse Leads the Series 3-0
Cedrick Desjardins stopped all 25 shots he faced for his first shutout of these playoffs. Desjardins getting hot must be a terrifying prospect for the teams still alive in the AHL playoffs.
SYR Panik, (4) (Palat), 15:15
SYR Palat, (4) (Johnson), 0:08 (SH)
SYR Johnson, (7) (Palat, Cote), 7:24 (SH)
Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Desjardins were the game's three stars. Palat and Johnson are absolutely lethal as penalty killers. They were generating a couple of great chances a night in the Portland series and they haven't let up on Springfield.
Springfield has to be completely deflated with this outcome. They finally managed to get the close, low-scoring game they needed against Syracuse and they couldn't break through Desjardins. Insult to injury is their PP going -2 in the process when they have the man advantage in the Third Period which is when you want to break open a close game.
Friday, Syracuse will try to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. For those players on the team who went through the run last year in Norfolk, SyraNo has won 16 straight playoff games going back to the series against the Connecticut Whale last year. Since then they have swept the IceCaps, Marlies, Pirates, and are 1 game away from sweeping away the Falcons. When you think how it takes 15 wins to get a Calder Cup under the current format, and the core of this group's won 16 in a row, it's pretty darn impressive.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The PTP'ers put on a special teams clinic.
Syracuse Leads the Series 2-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the win. Luv that goal support.
SYR Panik, (3) (Palat, Johnson), 1:02 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (2) (Brown), 1:15
SPR Russell, (1) (Audy-Marchessault, Prout), 14:40
SYR Johnson, (4) (Connolly, Palat), 8:31 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (5) , 14:05 (SH)
SPR Vogelhuber, (2) (Goloubef, Joudrey), 14:29
SYR Johnson, (6) (Panik, Palat), 6:47 (PP)
SPR Jenner, (2) (Holden, Audy-Marchessault), 8:04
Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. Johnson gets the hat trick and the PTP'er line ends up +4 in goal differential on special teams with 3 PP goals and a SH goal. No chance. Springfield's got no chance if they keep letting the Johnson line scorch them like this.
Syracuse now heads home with the 2-0 series lead and Springfield has no answers so far defensively, plus McElhinney's gotten torched through 2 games. Game Three is Wednesday night. Meanwhile, in the East's other series, Providence held serve at home and has a 2-0 series lead of the Penguins, making it look like a Syracuse/Providence matchup is on the horizon.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Syracuse draws first blood, and nearly hits an artery.
Syracuse Leads the Series 1-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the victory. Goal support is a beautiful thing.
SYR Barberio, (2) (Panik, Johnson), 8:40 (PP)
SYR Panik, (2) (Johnson, Palat), 9:00
SPR Drazenovic, (2) (Holden, Craig), 10:06 (PP)
SYR Brown, (2) (Wyman, Korobov), 11:26
SYR Connolly, (2) (Sexton, Taormina), 18:13
SYR Johnson, (3) (Palat), 10:10
SPR Craig, (1) (Holden, Johansen), 19:58 (PP)
Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars. In the marquee matchup between the AHL's best line over the past 1-1/2 years and a very good goaltender, Curtis McElhinney, round one goes to the PTP'ers. Interestingly, all three of Syracuse's lines clicked in the First Period clock cleaning that ended Game One early on, but make no mistake, this series comes down to whether McElhinney can make enough saves to keep games close and allow Springfield to leverage the goaltending advantage they have on paper. And, to do that, he has to stop Palat/Johnson/Panik.
Game Two is tomorrow night, and with home ice advantage already stolen away, Syracuse is playing with house money. A Game Two victory possibly means a short series, and in the war of attrition that is playoff hockey, that can pay big dividends in future rounds.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Although all the weight isn’t on their shoulders, the Syracuse Crunch’s top line knows its importance.
Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik have provided six of Syracuse’s 12 postseason goals, including two out of the four in each game. Those six markers include all three game-winners, two of which came in overtime.
With the No. 2 seed Falcons looming when the Eastern Conference Semifinals begin in Springfield Friday, the top line will be expected to do what it has done all season – produce points by the bunches in all situations.
"All three of those guys can fly," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "That's their best asset – they have speed. If you show that speed early and often, hopefully it will back off their defense and create some room in front of them as the series goes on."