Crunch Use Shorthanded Goals to Down Falcons, 3-0

By Jeremy Houghtaling

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."

Palat finished with a goal and two assists, while Johnson had a goal and a helper. Richard Panik added a breakaway goal with less than five minutes remaining in the first, and Jean-Philippe Cote added an assist.

"Getting those two goals helped lift the pressure off our shoulders," Johnson said of the third period goals.

"Shorthanded goals always (provide) momentum for us," Palat said.

Palat now leads the league in postseason points (15), with four goals and 11 assists. Johnson is one point behind, with seven goals and seven assists.

"We were just trying to create some chances, and luckily they've been going in for us," Johnson said.

Cedrick Desjardins backstopped the Crunch, making 24 saves for the shutout. At the other end of the ice, Curtis McElhinney made 26 saves.

"I thought he was good when he had to be," Zettler said of Desjardins. "He made some key saves on the penalty kill for us. I don't think he got overwhelmed with chances against, but when he was faced with something he came up big."

For Desjardins, it was more about making sure the momentum stayed in Syracuse's favor.

"You don't want to give them life," he said. "That's what they were waiting for and we didn't give them any life today. That's our mindset, we don't want to give them any hope."

Even with a 3-0 series lead, the Crunch aren't taking Game 4 -- or a possible Game 5 at home -- for granted.

"I'm hoping we can finish them off Friday, that's our mindset," Zettler said. "We'll focus on Friday and nothing else, then go from there."

Pictured: Crunch forwards Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik celebrate a first period goal against the Falcons at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.