The Lightning come within an eyelash of taking a point away from a very fired up Capitals team.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the loss. What a tough spot to be put in for your first game back. "So, uh, Smitty. You got the Caps tonight. They've won 9 in a row and they're super angry the way we whipped them last time we played them. Go get 'em tiger!" Give credit to Smith for battling and giving the Lightning a serious chance to get points out of this one.
WSH 0:57, Backstrom 23 (Ovechkin, Fleischmann)(PP)
WSH 12:56, Laich 16 (Semin, Fleischmann)
TB 5:00, St. Louis 16 (Foster, Stamkos)
TB 7:42, Stamkos 29 (Foster, St. Louis)(PP)
WSH 13:34, Ovechkin 35 (Backstrom, Poti)
There's no such thing as a moral victory, and I doubt the club feels very good about losing a point with under 10 to play. But, watching this game out of the corner of my eye while the Norfolk game was on, you could tell the Caps came out with playoff intensity and they were out there to try to embarass the Lightning after Tampa Bay spanked them so badly in the last meeting they had. For the most part, the Lightning handled the Caps' surges and they blocked a ton of shots to keep the overall shot total close at 31-27 even though they got outchanced. And, they played opportunistic hockey in the third and capitalized on a key power play opportunity that almost was enough to steal a point out of the capitol city. In other words, even in defeat, the Lightning managed to let Washnington know the last game in Tampa was not a fluke. The gap is closing in the Southeast.
How long has it been since a Lightning game didn't have a prospect in it? It's the first time in about a season and a half, at least, with Paul Szczechura being sent to the Admirals for a brief conditioning stint. On a somewhat related note, it'll be interesting to see if the Lightning send some reinforcements like Szczechura to Norfolk over the Olympic break to see if they can aid in the Admirals' own quest for the playoffs.
Norfolk caps the Mother of All Road Trips with a 13 round shootout victory. They finish their long journey 6-0-1, undefeated in regulation.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 37 shots before stopping 9 of 13 shooters in the penalty shot session for the victory in his first shootout as a pro.
NOR Fornataro, (5) (Wishart, Craig), 14:58 (PP)
BRI Haley, (4) (Gannon), 16:11
NOR- Jones, Fadden, Simek, Cruthers, Wishart
BRI- Smith, Mauldin, Moore, Haskins
Ty Wishart and Tokarski were named the game's first and third stars. Amazingly, this was only the second shootout of the season for Norfolk. They sure did get their money's worth, though, by going 13 rounds. I said in the NHL recap the other night when the Lightning played the Ducks that shootouts usually aren't that exciting. Well, trust me, this one was exciting.
Norfolk came out very strong in the first period and could've easily had a 3-0 lead after the opening frame were it not for how well Bridgeport's goaltender, Scott Munro, played. In particular, I though the line of Ryan Craig, Blair Jones, and Dana Tyrell were excellent on the forecheck in that period and throughout the game. As the game progressed though, the Admirals started to tire and they were dragging mightily by the time overtime came around. This was their 7th road game in 10 days, and it's a testament to their conditioning that they rose to the occassion and pulled out wins these past couple of days.
Mitch Fadden is electric with the puck in space, and he had the cold blooded trigger finger of an assassin in the shootout tonight. If he can just bulk up to help him be stronger on the puck along the wall, he's got a chance to be a really good NHL player.
The victory pushes Norfolk back to .500 for the season at 23-23-3 with 49 points. For the moment, they hold third place in the North Division outright by 2 points with 4th place Adirondack locked in a 1-1 tie at Rochester as of this posting. 5th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton kept pace with a 3-1 win over Manitoba, and remain 3 points back of the Admirals with 2 games in hand. 6th place Syracuse, which is now 5 points back of Norfolk, is idle and will gain a game in hand. Last place Binghamton is down 1-0 to Hershey as of this posting and have now fallen 7 points behind Norfolk. Binghamton will have 4 games in hand on Norfolk, but they're in danger of losing their 4th game in a row and falling out of the chase.
Norfolk has also moved within 3 points of Hartford and Bridgeport, which are tied at 52 points for 5th in the Atlantic Division. Norfolk holds 2 games in hand on Bridgeport, but none on Hartford. If the 4th place team in the East finishes ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic, they will get in and nullify the possibility of a crossover.
Norfolk's big schedule advantage is that they now have 20 home games and just 11 road games remaining. They are 4 games under .500 at home and 4 games over .500 on the road. Traditionally, though, The Scope has been one of the toughest places to play in the AHL, and if the Admirals can regain their superiority there they should be in fantastic shape. Norfolk will get their first home test under Head Coach Jim Johnson Wednesday. It will be a big one, as they face Hershey, which has been the class of the league for much of the past two seasons.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 6 @ Belleville Bulls 0
C Richard Panik, BEL: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 43 GP, 12-12-24, +6, 29 PIM
With Bulls: 10 GP, 3-3-6, -9, 10 PIM
With Windsor: 33 GP, 9-9-18, +15, 19 PIM
RW Kyle DeCoste, BEL: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 15-8-23, -12, 41 PIM
With Bulls: 32 GP, 13-7-20, -10, 23 PIM
With SSM: 13 GP, 2-1-3, -2, 20 PIM
Belleville was only outshot 27-23, but did little damage against Wayne Gretzkyâ€™s alma mater.
Kitchener Rangers 2 @ Barrie Colts 5
LW/C Alex Hutchings, BAR: 1-0-1, +1, 7 PIM (hooking, fighting vs. Jeremy Morin, misconduct-USC)
Season Totals: 49 GP, 33-23-56, +32, 45 PIM
This was Hutchingsâ€™ (pictured) second fight of his career and first of the season. Morin (Thrashers 2/2009) is among Rangersâ€™ leading scorers at 65 points. Morin, an American, received an instigator on the play. He has fought five times this year.
Regina Pats 1 @ Moose Jaw Warriors 4
RW Carter Ashton, REG: 1-0-1, E, 2 PIM (roughing)
Season Totals: 46 GP, 20-20-40, -7, 84 PIM
With Regina: 18 GP, 7-7-14, +1, 32 PIM
With Lethbridge: 28 GP, 13-13-26, -8, 52 PIM
Ashtonâ€™s goal tied the game at one early, but Regina couldnâ€™t defeated Moose Jaw on the road to extend their 5-0-0-1 streak. Ashton hit 20 goals for the second straight season. The first rounder had 30 in 70 games last year with Lethbridge.
Prince George Cougars 4 @ Vancouver Giants 7
C James Wright, VAN: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 2 GP, 0-1-1, -1, 0 PIM
With Tampa Bay: 43 GP, 2-3-5, -9, 18 PIM
Wright registered his first point since his return to the WHL from Tampa. Vancouver, who had lost a season-high three in a row before their shootout win Friday on the road, broke out in a big way against the Cougars.
No.19 Maine Black Bears 4 @ No.17 Vermont Catamounts 4
C/W Matt Marshall , UVM: Did not play.
Season Totals: 23 GP, 1-3-4, -4, 14 PIM
Vermont goes 0-1-1 against Maine on Catamount ice this weekend.
Western Michigan Broncos 1 @ No.1 Miami Redhawks 2
D Luke Witkowski , WMU: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM (holding), 1 SOG
Season Totals: 24 GP, 2-3-5, -10, 28 PIM
A great showing by the Broncos at No.1 Miami. The Redhawks scored the winner with under five minutes left in the game.
What a great road win in the biggest game, thus far, of the season.
Dustin Tokarski allowed just 1 goal on 37 shots for the win. He kept the Admirals afloat during a bad first period where the team was under siege and allowed them to get their legs under them to scratch out the road victory.
ADK Laliberte, (10) (Bourdon, Maroon), 15:25 (PP)
NOR Fornataro, (4) (Parrish, Fadden), 19:31
NOR Keller, (7) , 16:48 (SH)
Tokarski and Justin Keller were the game's first and second stars. Keller absolutely torched a shot high and past John Grahame from the circles (sound familiar Lightning fans?) on the winning shorthanded goal. Coach Johnson has to be very thrilled with the great road third period he got protecting a one goal lead. The duo of Justin Keller and Ryan Cruthers was very good one the forecheck in the final frame and not only bled time off the clock, but also set up some decent chances to get an insurance goal. With the exception of the late penalty by Cruthers, that was almost a perfect road third period.
The win moves the Admirals into a tie for the final playoff spot in the East Division with the Phantoms at 47 points with Adirondack holding 2 games in hand. The Admirals will pick up 2 points on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who got Moosed by Manitoba tonight, and look poised to pick up 2 points on Binghamton, which is down 4-1 to Syracuse in the third period. If that score holds up, the Crunch will actually jump ahead of the Sens into sixth place as they try to mount a charge for the playoffs as well. So the Ads will likely be 3 points up on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Syracuse, and 5 points up on Binghamton when they wake up in the morning with the Pens having 2 games in hand, the Crunch having 0 games in hand, and the Sens having 4 games in hand.
The Admirals' 7 game road trip ends tomorrow afternoon against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who are trailing Hartford by 1 point as of this posting for the final crossover playoff spot in the Atlantic division at 52 points. If the Admirals were to fall out of 3rd in the East into 4th, but managed to climb over the 5th place team in the Atlantic, who they trail currently by 5 points, they could still get in. If they stay hot, that may also be an avenue for entry into the playoffs. The Admirals actually hold 1 game in hand on Hartford and 2 games in hand on Bridgeport, so that is becoming a possibility. Unfortunately, tomorrow night's game will probably have to be played short of veteran help. By the rules of his conditioning stint, David Hale can't play tomorrow night due to it being the third game in three nights, Adam Hall was apparently hurt in tonight's first period, and Lukas Krajicek has had his contract ripped up and lit ablaze after leaving the team. Tough guy Mitch Fritz is also hurt, leaving the task of capping a phenomenal road trip on the shoulders of the Admirals' young players and the few veterans who will suit up like Ryan Craig. The prize? The Ads can climb back to .500 with a win tomorrow night and possibly claim third in the North outright if Adirondack stumbles at Rochester. They're all big games now.
Box score from TheAHL.com.