Crunch Score Three Power Play Goals, Beat Admirals 4-2

By Jeremy Houghtaling

As the Syracuse Crunch took the ice for warmups, they looked across the ice at something that gave them a range of emotions.

It was different. It was weird. It was somewhat-familiar.

It was the same bright blue, yellow and red Norfolk Admirals uniforms that most of the team wore last year during their amazing winning streak and ensuing run to the Calder Cup championship.

"You step out and you're skating around and you see them coming out of their lockerroom, and you're like 'Jeez, those jerseys look pretty familiar,'" Crunch defenseman Mark Barberio said. "After that, it comes down to you're playing hockey and they're the opposition."

Syracuse, the new affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, scored three power play goals in a 4-2 win over Norfolk, the former farm team, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

"We just kept things really simple and didn't try to complicate our lives out there," Barberio said. "We just took the shots when they were open and available. That's the recipe for success on the PP - shots and rebounds."

Barberio opened the scoring midway through the first when his bullet from the blue line rang off the pipe and fell behind Norfolk netminder Igor Bobkov. Tyler Johnson recorded an assist, his first of three points on the night.

"(Brett Connolly) put it right in my wheelhouse and I just tried to shoot it on net," Barberio said of the power play marker. "It ended up going in."

On their next man-advantage less than three minutes later, Alex Killorn provided the Crunch with a two-goal lead. The Harvard product quickly capitalized on a feed in the high slot from Vladislav Namestnikov, who was in his first game back after missing two months with a shoulder injury.

"It was exciting - a little nervous, but exciting," Namestnikov said of his first game back. "Hopefully I can stay in the lineup and stay healthy."

Other players weren't as lucky. Syracuse forward JT Brown broke his collarbone after being checked into the boards in the first period, and is expected to miss substantial time.

After the Admirals' Kyle Palmieri scored on a breakaway in the second, the Crunch responded with their only even-strength goal of the night. Ondrej Palat scored his fourth of the season five minutes into the third, with Johnson and Matt Taormina each getting assists.

Syracuse allowed Norfolk to hang in the game, as Sami Vatanen brought the Admirals back within one midway through the third.

Johnson finally gave the Crunch a two-goal lead that lasted when he notched his 19th of the season with four minutes remaining. Palat was credited with an assist, his second point of the night.

"(Richard Panik) kind of shot it and it hit the goalie's glove and then trickled on over and was right on the line, so I put it in," Johnson said. "It was…a garbage goal by me. It was good movement by the other guys on the ice. Luckily, I was in the right position."

After going 3-for-4 on the man-advantage, the Crunch's power play struggles from earlier this month seem like a distant memory.

"We did a lot of things we wanted to do and got a lot of opportunities," Johnson said. "We got some of those bounces that we weren't getting before."

Bobkov finished with 28 saves, while Syracuse's Dustin Tokarski turned away 16 shots.

Although they aren't wearing those bright blue, red and yellow sweaters, AHL-leading Syracuse (19-7-1-3) hopes to continue another streak when it hosts St. John's Saturday.

"We're looking to maybe get on a roll here; that's two in a row after Christmas break," Barberio said. "We're going to have another battle tomorrow night against St. John's."

Top: Crunch forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie shields the puck from an Admirals defender at Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
Above: Crunch defenseman Radko Gudas checks Admirals forward Brandon McMillan at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.