After the final horn, the Syracuse Crunch focused on putting their recent struggles behind them.
Matthew Peca scored his first professional goal but the Crunch failed to convert on multiple 5-on-3 opportunities and let the lead slip away, as Syracuse fell to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 4-2, in the regular season finale at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
Syracuse, No. 5 in the Eastern Conference, has lost five straight and nine out of its last 10 heading into the first round playoff series with the No. 4 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
"We've had a tough couple weeks to say the least," said Crunch head coach Rob Zettler. "It's not the finish that we wanted, but this team worked really hard to get to where we are, which is in the playoffs."
Crunch complete their limp into the playoffs.
Adam Wilcox allowed 3 goals in 18 shots for the loss. Ugly stat line.
SYR Peca, (1) (Ikonen, Vermin), 5:11
BRI Jeffrey, (25) (Quine), 6:57
BRI Mouillierat, (24) (Pulock, Quine), 9:53 (PP)
BRI Markison, (1) (Sundstrom), 15:19
SYR Blujus, (4) (Dotchin, Marchessault), 19:38 (PP)
BRI Mayfield, (1) , 19:56 (EN)
Matthew Peca, who scored his first professional goal, was the game's first star.
Syracuse outshot Bridgeport 33-19 in the contest, but couldn't turn the tide on the scoreboard. The club finished the regular season 1-7-2 in their last 10 games. Ouch. The team will be the 5th seed in the East and start on the road against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the opening round. It's hard to feel confident, though, given the team's marked swoon over the past 10 games.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Grumpy Lightning punish Wings.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 24 shots for his first NHL playoff victory, and the lone goal he surrendered was a goofy goal that ping ponged off two defenders before bouncing in off Tatar's shin pads. I'm not surprised he had a bounce-back performance, because Ben hasn't had two poor performances in a row all season long that I can recall. I am relieved, though, that he put the whole playoff stigma thing to bed, and now we can settle into the grind of the second season.
3:05 TB Johnson (1), (Nesterov, Kucherov)(PP)
7:56 TB Killorn (1), (Callahan, Stamkos)
14:48 TB Sustr (1), (Filppula, Namestnikov)
19:22 TB Johnson (2), (Hedman)
5:49 DET Tatar (1), (Quincey, Nyquist)
15:26 TB Filppula (1), (Stamkos, Nesterov)(PP)
Tampa Bay showed up to the rink in a must-win situation with ill humor, and they imposed their will on Detroit physically throughout the game. Callahan, Morrow, and several others laid the lumber to the Wings defense, Stamkos and Killorn and others still participated in multiple scrums in the First and Second Period, and the Lightning rode that energy to a critical win that killed any notion that this season will be a repeat of last year's debacle against Montreal.
In the end, the Lightning outshot Detroit 30-24. Hockey-wise, the Lightning didn't actually play as well as they did in Game One and Detroit played much better than they did in the opener, leveraging much more possession. But, the edge that they folded into their game today seemed to really knock Detroit out of their antiseptic approach to locking down and clearing out pucks from around Mrazek (and later Howard), with the Lightning finally getting some greasy goals of their own, starting with Johnson's power play marker.
In the process, I think the Lightning squashed just about every other kernel of doubt the press might want to waste ink on between now and Tuesday. Bishop obviously put to bed any doubts about his play. The myth of Petr Mrazek's invincibility was destroyed with 4 goals on 18 shots, and they showed Howard isn't a better option cashing in on an ugly rebound for a goal. The power play clicked to the tune of 2-for-4 in the game, trending upward to respectability from the 0-for-7 performance in Game One. Other than Stamkos picking up his first goal of the series, I can't think of any other boxes the Lightning didn't check tonight. And, there's clearly another gear the Lightning can go to. I thought there were times their puck management was lackluster, and they still have Jason Garrison in the wings waiting to return in Game Three. In other words, I'd be a little terrified if I were Detroit that Tampa Bay hasn't even hit its top gear yet.
Now, the Lightning need to shake off the good feelings of the first playoff victory quickly and refocus on the opportunity at hand coming on Tuesday. Another strong game in Detroit in Game Three, and I think there's a legitimate chance Tampa Bay could run the Wings straight out of this series. It's hard to imagine Detroit's going to be able to last long in this series averaging 20 shots a game against Bishop with all the firepower the Lightning bring to the rink and Mrazek and Howard both looking mortal today.
Nikita Nesterov had a pair of helpers and 3 blocked shots in 18:49. He's clearly earned his ticket to stay in the lineup with 3 points in his first couple of NHL playoff games. Really, other than a couple of turnovers by Coburn, I'm hard pressed to muster much negativity at how any of the Lightning defensemen played today, and you even saw Sustr get a goal and nearly pot a second. It leaves me to wonder if, presuming Garrison goes in Game Three, the Lightning will go with 7 d-men next time out.
Western Hockey League
Eastern Conference Semifinals
East-3 Medicine Hat Tigers 3 @ East-2 Calgary Hitmen 4 (2OT)
Calgary wins best-of-7 series, 4-1
D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 12 GP, 0-3-3, -2, 2 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 7-24-31, +16, 28 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 7-24-31, +11, 39 PIM
Calgary advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 4-3 double-overtime win Friday night. The Hitmen scored on their ninth shot of the second extra session and led in shots overall, 58-55. Calgary’s Jake Virtanen (Canucks) tied the game in the final minute of regulation with a power play goal. Travis Sanheim (Flyers) won it. Calgary gets top-seeded Brandon in the conference finals.
Despite having a two goal lead early in the third period, the Syracuse Crunch couldn't hold on.
The Flames scored twice in the final 14 minutes of regulation and Ken Agostino netted the game-winner 39 seconds into overtime, as Adirondack beat Syracuse, 5-4, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
"We lack the discipline to play a tighter game late in the third period," said Crunch head coach Rob Zettler. "They wanted to open up and we seemed like we wanted to go right along with that ride and open it up a little bit. Instead of clamping down and making smart plays throughout he neutral zone, we failed to do that."