Panik Scores OT Goal, Crunch Win Game 1

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After two potential game-winning goals were waved off in overtime, Richard Panik provided one that left little doubt.

The Syracuse Crunch forward accepted the pass from Ondrej Palat, spun to the left across the crease, and put the puck over Portland Pirates goalie Chad Johnson. No stranger to overtime goals, Panik was nonchalant about the play.

"Just a good move I guess," he said with a smile.

The goal capped a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win for the No. 3 Crunch over the No. 6 Portland Pirates in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday. Syracuse hosts Game 2 Sunday.

"I think having that first one under our belt will relax some guys," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler.

The Crunch battled back from a pair of two-goal deficits, which began when the Pirates' Darian Dziurzynski and David Rundblad each scored in the first period.

"I thought the first period we took some dumb penalties," Zettler said. "We took some retaliatory penalties in their end 200 feet from our net. That really hurt us, that really took away the flow of our game."

Tyler Johnson, who led the league in goals this season, brought Syracuse back to within one with a power play tally 6:37 into the second, but Chris Brown answered back with a goal less than two minutes later.

Mark Barberio scored with the man-advantage midway through the second, swinging the momentum back to the Crunch. Dan Sexton then tied the game by tipping in Andrej Sustr's point shot with a little more than 12 minutes left in regulation.

For many in the locker room, the comeback was never in doubt.

"There's such character in our team," Panik said.

Less than two minutes into overtime, Johnson's shot from in tight was reviewed, but play went on. Palat's rebound goal was then waved off because the official had whistled the play dead.

"You can't do anything about it, the ref made the decision…Those things happen in the playoffs, you have to move on," Johnson said.

The Crunch received a five-minute power play 3:35 into the extra frame, after the Pirates' Boris Valabik was called for elbowing and tossed for his hit along the end boards on Brett Connolly, who returned in time for Panik's goal.

"Especially in OT, any PP is a must-score," Johnson said. "When they get a five-minute like that, you can't pass it up."

The Crunch didn't, and after the goal 6:36 into overtime, finished 3-for-11 with the man-advantage.

Crunch goalie Cedrick Desjardins registered 28 saves, while Chad Johnson had 35.

Palat recorded three assists, Tyler Johnson added two, and Philip-Michael Devos, Sustr and Panik each had one.

Despite the game-winner, Panik was not impressed with his play. He pointed to a couple of turnovers, and shouldered the blame for Portland's third goal.

The overtime winner provided some consolation.

"At least it's something, you know," he said.

Pictured: Crunch forward Richard Panik rushes the puck up the ice against the Pirates at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.