In his first game since being sent down, Brett Connolly made an immediate impact.
Reassigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday, Connolly scored three times to lead the Syracuse Crunch to a 5-1 win over the Rochester Americans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
"I didn't expect to get three, but I wanted to help out and help the team win," he said. "I was fortunate enough to get a couple good looks and they went in for me."
With the victory, Syracuse remains two points ahead of Binghamton in the East Division, and clinches home ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
Back on track.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory.
SYR Connolly, (28) (Namestnikov, Korobov), 1:37
SYR Connolly, (29) (Johnson, Palat), 8:28 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (33) (Palat, Taormina), 10:11 (PP)
SYR Wyman, (12) (Angelidis, Cote), 19:33
SYR Connolly, (30) (Paradis, Lee), 2:08
RCH Biega, (5) (Ellis, Mancari), 4:53
The cavalry arrived, and just in time. Brett Connolly threw in a hat trick, his first as a pro, to get to 30 goals. For my money, this guy needs to be in the AHL MVP discussion prominently. He's been the most consistent Crunch player all year long, even more so than Tyler Johnson whose stats sagged a little after coming back from Lightning camp midway through the year. Connolly and Johnson are tied for 8th in the league in scoring at 60 points.
Binghamton absolutely throttled Albany 5-0 to start the day, which put huge pressure on Syracuse to win. Meanwhile, Providence beat Springfield 2-0 in a head-to-head matchup that was advantageous for the Crunch. Syracuse remains 4 back of the Bruins, pulls into a tie with Springfield at 93 points, and remains 2 up on the Senators. All three teams have a game in hand on Syracuse, though. Next weekend, starting Friday, will be a 3-games-in-3-nights set to complete the regular season, all at home: Norfolk, Worcester, and a game against Binghamton that may well decide the East Division title. With Mark Barberio out of the lineup for Tampa Bay tonight and Victor Hedman back in, I would think more reinforcements are on the way, too.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
After getting off to a quick start, the Syracuse Crunch offense fizzled.
The Crunch lost a pair of one-goal leads, and fell in overtime to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. Syracuse, reeling after two straight overtime losses, clings to a two point lead in the East Division.
"Always when you lose, it's tough," said Crunch forward Ondrej Palat. "We just need to focus for the playoffs. (We have to) be better, finish the season strong."
Clinging to the division lead as the finish line nears.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the overtime loss.
SYR Sexton, (9) (Richard, Palat), 2:09
BRI Campbell, (6) (Donovan), 7:25
SYR Palat, (13) (Sexton, Taormina), 12:45
BRI Niederreiter, (27) (Nilsson, DeFazio), 7:27 (PP)
BRI Nelson, (24) (Donovan, Wishart), 2:42
Providence, Springfield, and Binghamton all won tonight, meaning Syracuse lost 1 point worth of ground on the entire field. So, Syracuse is now 4 points back of Providence, 2 back of Springfield, and 2 ahead of Binghamton with all three of those clubs holding a game in hand. Tyler Johnson and Brett Connolly did not play for Syracuse tonight after being sent down to the club today. Their arrival may be critical to the Crunch hanging onto the division title. Rochester is up next tomorrow night.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned forwards Brett Connolly and Tyler Johnson to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Connolly, 20, has skated in five games with the Lightning this season, tallying one goal on 10 shots. He scored his lone goal of the season while on the power play last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward has also appeared in 67 games with the Crunch, registering 27 goals and 57 points to go along with a plus-15 rating and 51 penalty minutes. Connolly ranks second on Syracuse for goals and points and is third for assists with 30. The Campbell River, British Columbia native was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, sixth overall, in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Johnson, 22, has played in 14 games with the Lightning this season, collecting three goals and six points to go along with a plus-3 rating and four penalty minutes. The 5-foot-9, 182-pound forward made his NHL debut on March 14 against the New York Islanders and recorded his first career NHL goal and assist on March 16 versus Carolina. Johnson ranks second among all NHL rookies in faceoff percentage at 59.5% (minimum 50 taken). The Spokane, Washington native has also appeared in 59 games with the Crunch, posting 32 goals and 58 points with a plus-28 rating. He ranks first on Syracuse in goals and points and has a team-high 11 power play goals.