It's over, Brian.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 7 shots in the first period for the loss before giving way to Antero Niitymaki, who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots the rest of the way.
It's over, and it's time to throw some support down to Norfolk in the hope that at least one team in this organization can make the postseason. Right now the best case scenario is if the Lightning could somehow get in a position to take Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin and add another franchise caliber piece to the puzzle. This season, however, is done.
Matt Lashoff had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 19:43. That's the kind of performance he needed to get back in the conversation for next season. With the Lightning off until Tuesday, he'll presumably head to Binghamton to help the Admirals tomorrow night.
Vladimir Mihalik was -2 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 12:01. It's striking that, even despite the rash of injuries, the coaching staff still is holding Vladdy down to a dozen minutes a game. That's not a good sign. He presumably will also be headed back to the Admirals for tomorrow night's game.
I kind of hope Paul Szczechura joins them, also. Not because Paul has played poorly, but because the Admirals need the help.
Against all odds, Keller, Tokarski, and the Admirals have life.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the win. He's been good down the stretch, and he'll need to be amazing in the final 5 games of the season to get the Admirals over the hump.
ALB Blanchard, (14) (Micflikier, Samson), 12:37
NOR Keller, (16) (Jones), 16:03
NOR Keller, (17) (Case, Jackson), 13:29
Justin Keller and Tokarski were the game's first and second stars.
Tonight was supposed to be a funeral for the Norfolk Admirals. With Ty Wishart out hurt and Lashoff and Mihalik called up due to injuries, the Admirals blueline consisted of Scott Jackson and a bunch of no-names. On the road. Against a hot Albany club that's dominated the series this season. And, somehow, the Admirals have parlayed doom into hope, despite being outclassed for much of tonight's game. They made their own breaks. Blair Jones made a great individual play to steal a puck to set up Keller on the first goal, Tokarski made every key save he had to to keep it 1-1, and then in the final frame, when the Ads looked to just be holding on for a point, Justin Keller got a little daylight and used his laser shot to propel Norfolk to the win. That's why they play the games.
It's now essentially a four team race for three spots, and everything looks to have gone Norfolk's way tonight. Inside the division, Binghamton smoked third place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6-2, meaning the Admirals are 3 points back of the Penguins. In the crossover, Lowell (which is struggling), fell 5-2 to Hartford and Bridgeport is down 4-1 to Manchester very late in the third period. If that score holds, Norfolk will be 2 points back of both the Devils and Monarchs, and in all three cases the Admirals will hold one game in hand.
Can they defy the odds again tomorrow night in Binghamton? If they do, they can pull within 1 point of the Penguins for 3rd place in the East Division. Moreover, they could pull back into a playoff spot if Lowell falls in regulation to Worcester and/or Bridgeport falls in regulation to Portland. Theoretically, with the Lightning off until Tuesday, the Admirals should get Matt Lashoff and Vladimir Mihalik back for tomorrow night, and one would hope a forward or two might also be thrown into the mix, because tomorrow is make-or-break for Norfolk, and Binghamton has been playing well.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
You explain it. I sure can't.
Mike Smith had a 27 save shutout for the victory. He was strong in tight and the Lightning did a very good job at limited the east-west chances and odd-man rushes that Smitty struggles with.
TB 17:00, Stamkos 46 (St. Louis, Foster)(PP)
TB 0:29, Downie 22 (St. Louis, Stamkos)
I don't get it. I don't get how you lose to Columbus one night, and then handle the defending champs easily the next. This wasn't like the Bruins game where the Lightning were outshot 3:1. The Lightning were very much under control defensively in tonight's game and they dutifully capitalized on the few chances they had. Was it trying to send a message on national TV? Trying to show out for Steven Stamkos' Richard Trophy race? The Pens announcers suggested they were playing for Tocchet's job. I'm not sure that's true one night after you choke against the Blue Jackets. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it.
Kudos to Mike Lundin (29:48) and Mattias Ohlund (27:07) for picking up the ice time with only 4 true NHL d-men in uniform and one of the minor leaguers getting thrown out in his first shift. Whoever ends up being GM, they need to re-sign Lundin expeditiously before July 1st. Even if he doesn't improve an iota over what he is right now, which seems unlikely, he's a solid, mobile, 20 minute a night ice time eater.
Steve Downie is now just 4 points shy of 50 of the season. Fun with numbers: since the turn of the year when he started taking on more of a scoring line role, Downie has 14 goals, 29 points, and 112 penalty minutes in 36 games. That pro-rates to 32 goals, 66 points, and 255 PIMs over an 82 game season. So he's got a chance to be a 30 goal and 70 point player next season, and possibly more. If Downie ratcheted up the discipline a bit more and trimmed his PIMs down to, say, a 150 PIM pace, how many more points would he have with an extra 50-60 minutes worth of total ice time? For Downie, that'd be like tacking another 3-4 games onto his season in which to hit the scoresheet.
Steven Stamkos is 1 goal back in the Richard Trophy race. I'd have killed for him to tie Crosby with an EN goal at the end.
Zenon Konopka still leads the PIM King chase. There's another guy who needs to be re-signed before July 1st.
Matt Lashoff was like Tom Berringer in that awful Sniper movie: one shift, one kill. 15 penalty minutes in 49 seconds after boarding ex-Lightning Rusty Fedotenko. The knock on Lashoff has been twofold: that he's soft and he's mildly stupid in his own end positionally. I'm thinking he was a little overeager to answer the first critique.
Vladimir Mihalik had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 12:18. He looked fairly poised and confident at times tonight, which is likely a byproduct of playing with countryman Andrej Meszaros. The good news with Vladdy is that his skating hasn't been as much of an issue as I thought it might be. The bad news is that NHL competition has highlighted the fact that even though Vladdy is big, he's not strong. He needs to build his upper body strength to compete better along the wall.
(Norfolk Admirals release) The Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL parent club of the Norfolk Admirals, have recalled defenseman Matt Lashoff from the Admirals on an emergency basis, Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today.
Lashoff, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman from East Greenbush, New York, has appeared in 66 games with Norfolk this season, scoring seven goals and 23 points with 94 penalty minutes. He also has four power play goals and one game-winning goal. He ranks second among club defensemen in scoring and ranks second overall in penalty minutes.
Things are about to get very desperate.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the loss.
WBS Wallace, (24) (Smith, Conner), 10:08 (PP)
WBS Tangradi, (14) (Lee), 5:44 (PP)
NOR Lashoff, (7) (Craig, Hall), 11:05 (PP)
WBS Wallace, (25) (Smith, Engelland), 19:19 (EN)
Matt Lashoff was the game's third star.
Norfolk has seven games left to try to make the playoffs. They've fallen 3 points back of the Penguins for 3rd place in the North Division, putting them in 4th place in the division which places them in crossover peril from the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division. In the Atlantic, 3rd place Manchester thumped 5th place Bridgeport and 4th place Lowell beat Springfield in overtime. That means Manchester moves 5 points up on Norfolk with 1 game in hand, Lowell moves 4 points up on Norfolk and Bridgeport remains 2 points up on the Admirals. That means that if the playoffs began tomorrow, Norfolk would be staying home.
Norfolk draws the best team in the Atlantic Division, Worcester, tomorrow night, so things won't get easier.
Box score from TheAHL.com.