Tic, the Cap'n, and the Bottle Rocket get the win.
Dustin Tokarski was brilliant in the win stopping 38 of 39 shots he faced. He took Andreas Nodl's lunch money twice in the game to make sure the Admirals got the win and the necessary 2 points. When he's on like he was tonight, he's cooler under pressure than Billy Dee Williams and the other side of the pillow, combined.
NOR Craig, (22) (Tyrell, Mihalik), 7:14
ADK Dingle, (5) (Klotz, Lehtivuori), 14:39
NOR Hall, (15) (St. Pierre, Tyrell), 19:43
NOR Tyrell, (9) (Jackson, Craig), 19:18 (EN)
The unsung hero of the game, though, was Ryan Craig, who not only was Johnny on the Spot on the first Admirals goal, popping in a rebound that was laying beside the goal line, but whose faceoff wins set up the other two Admirals talleys, including his critical faceoff win on Tyrell's empty netter. He is leading this team by example, and his line with Hall and Tyrell is arguably one of the 5-10 best in the AHL right now. I sure hope the Lightning can find a way to keep Ryan in the organization, because he's one heck of a captain for the Admirals. In fact, I'm beginning to think the "C" stands for commodore. I just promoted him in rank.
For Tyrell, it was the first 3-point game of his pro career. His previous 7 multi-point games this season were 2-pointers. He shot from downtown tonight. He now has 23 points in his last 18 games and 8 multi-point efforts in that span. He set up the Admirals' first goal by beating out an icing with his speed, he helped shovel the puck back to the points for a helper after Craig's faceoff win on the second goal, and his blazing speed victimized former Lightning forward Jason Ward to beat out another icing for the empty net goal.
Vladimir Mihalik set a new career high in points with 17 with his assist on the Admirals' first goal. He was also as surly as I've ever seen him at his own net front.
In the standings, which mean everything right now: Norfolk still sits in 3rd place in the East Division with 78 points in 71 games and 9 games left to play. 2nd place Albany fell 2-1 to Binghamton tonight, so the Admirals have pulled to within 6 points again of the River Rats and the Ads hold 1 game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defeated Rochester 5-4 to keep pace with the Admirals and remain 1 point back of Norfolk with 1 game in hand. The rest of the division looks done with Binghamton 10 points back and Syracuse and Adirondack now 12 points back.
In the crossover, which is becoming a cluttered mess again, Manchester defeated Bridgeport in overtime, which unfortunately awarded a 3rd point in that game, and Lowell defeated Portland in overtime as well. So the Atlantic Division looks like this: 3rd and 4th place Manchester and Lowell have 79 points, 1 ahead of Norfolk, with the Monarchs holding 2 games in hand and the Devils holding 1 game in hand. 5th place Bridgeport is 2 points behind the Admirals with 1 game in hand. Why is this important? If the Admirals fall to 4th place in the East Division they must finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to reach the postseason.
So, coming down the stretch, things are starting to bunch up with 6 teams fighting for 5 spots. And, that sets up a colossal 2-game set at The Scope on Wednesday and Friday between Norfolk and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that could be season defining for the Admirals. Both teams will bleed, sweat, and pay the price with 3rd place in the division and possibly the playoffs on the line. And, with David Hale coming off IR in Tampa Bay, one wonders if some defensive help might be on the way from the Lightning just in time.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Heeeeeyyyyyy there goes a snowman!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 32 shots, but bathed in the clear, cool waters of rejuvenating goal support for the win.
ADK Holmstrom, (1) (Marshall, Pyorala), 3:46
NOR Craig, (21) (Hall, Fornataro), 8:45 (PP)
NOR Tyrell, (7) (Craig, Hall), 14:22
ADK Ross, (10) (Pyorala, Bourdon), 0:14
NOR Hall, (14) (Lashoff, Craig), 5:36
NOR Keller, (14) (Mihalik, Tarkir), 8:57
ADK Nodl, (10) , 9:54
NOR Keller, (15) (Lawrence, Jones), 13:29
NOR Ashton, (1) (Panik, Marks), 2:36
ADK Kalinski, (9) (Bellamy, Bodrov), 5:27
NOR Fadden, (6) (Fornataro), 6:39
NOR Tyrell, (8) (Jackson, Hall), 9:22
Norfolk got the benefit of facing two extremely inexperience netminders, Teslak (13 games of AHL experience coming into the night) and Mayotte (8 games of AHL experience entering the night), and absolutely punished them for daring them to step off the bus all game long. Norfolk gets Adirondack again tomorrow night, and I know it's hard to beat a team twice on back-to-back nights, but both of those young netminders have to be shell shocked.
Congratulations to Tyrell on the first multi-goal game of his professional career. Some folks may look at his numbers for the season and draw the conclusion he's had a pedestrian rookie season (8 goals and 31 points in 64 games). But, it should be pointed out that since 2-12-10 the speedy forward has posted 6 goals and 20 points in 17 games. We always expected Tyrell to get off to a slow start while he shook off the rust after knee surgery, and we always thought he'd have a strong second half. But, I don't think we ever believed he'd be this strong. In those 17 games he has 7 multi-point outings, all 2 point affairs, including tonight's game. He's got world class speed and acceleration and world class ethic, and has shown that he has underrated hockey sense in the offensive zone. He's one to watch, for sure.
Congratulations to Carter Ashton on his first professional goal, set up by Richard Panik for his first professional assist. That's a scoresheet combo I'm sure the Lightning would love to see often over the next 5-10 years.
Vladimir Mihalik tied his career high in points (16) with his assist on Justin Keller's first goal.
With the win, Norfolk reaches 76 points, which surpasses their point total of 75 from a season ago. They still sit in 3rd in the East Division and moved to within 8 points of 2nd place Albany with the Admirals holding a game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stayed just 1 point behind the Admirals with the Pens holding a game in hand by overcoming a 3 goal deficit against Springfield tonight. 5th, 6th, and 7th place Syracuse, Adirondack, and Binghamton are all 10 points back of Norfolk with all three holding 1 game in hand on the Admirals. So, coming down the stretch, this is shaping up into a 3-5 team dogfight between the Admirals, Penguins, and a logjam of about three teams (Manchester, Lowell, and Bridgeport) in the Atlantic that could wind up in 5th place in that division but still make the playoffs because of the crossover rule.
In the crossover, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place in the Atlantic Division are beginning to bunch up. Lowell lost tonight and Manchester lost in a shootout, so they're tied 77 points, 1 point ahead of the Admirals and 2 points ahead of 5th place Bridgeport, which beat Syracuse. So the Ads hold a slim 1 point lead on Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers hanging onto a game in hand, but if you look at the past 10 games as the trend, Bridgeport may climb up to third in the Atlantic and it may be Manchester or Lowell that slips all the way to 5th. 6th place Providence remains alive, 6 points back of the Admirals and 5 back of the Tigers.
So, now, it's a 10 game sprint to the finish line for the Admirals and we'll see if this snowman they just hung on Adirondack gives them a little extra kick in the final 100 meters. Norfolk has 7 games remaining at home and 3 on the road. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has 5 at home and 6 on the road. Ultimately, though, this is coming down to the three head-to-head matchups the Admirals have with the Penguins in the remaining few weeks of the season. Win and they're in. Lose and they'll be scoreboard watching what the Atlantic Division teams do, which is not the position you want to be in.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Wait'll next year.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 5 goals on 27 shots for the loss. Will he be back next year? I'm almost inclined to advocate completely changing the tandem in net for next season.
BUF 5:19, Pominville 19 (Roy, Lydman)(PP)
BUF 13:56, Myers 10 (Hecht)
BUF 16:23, Pominville 20 (Tallinder)
BUF 9:25, Roy 19 (unassisted)(SH)
TB 8:06, Downie 18 (Stamkos, St. Louis)
TB 17:22, Lecavalier 21 (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)
BUF 18:14, Vanek 23 (Roy)(EN)
BUF 19:26, Pominville 21 (Connolly, Lydman)
The season is over, and I'd be shocked if either the coach or the GM survive the offseason. Who won the Olympic Break power struggle? Nobody. I could've told you that then, too. I would hope a guy like Mark Parrish, who probably won't be in the long term plans of the organization, would be returned to Norfolk to try and bolster their playoff chances. From here on out, it's time to start evaluating players for next season. Teddy Purcell and Paul Szczechura need to be under the microscope and I would think there needs to be a cup of coffee for a couple of young prospects in Norfolk like, perhaps, Dana Tyrell to see how close they are to the show for next year. The team also needs to decide if Niittymaki, Kurtis Foster, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Smaby, and Mike Lundin will be back next season. On that list, Niitty, Foster, and Lundin are going into free agency. The team also needs to decide what they're going to do with the enigmatic Paul Ranger. I wonder where Ryan Malone fits too after evaporating in the second half once removed from a line with Stamkos and St. Louis.
The good news is that a pretty good foundation has been laid. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman are studs. Martin St. Louis is Martin St. Louis. Vincent Lecavalier has redeemed himself after a subpar first half, in my mind, and ought to stick around. Steve Downie has been excellent and is two goals shy of 20 for the season. The team is just a few pieces away: a steady goaltender and some more veteran defensive depth. The problem is that, as Lightning fans well know, steady goaltenders don't grow on trees. That'll be the challenge of whoever will be running this team come the NHL Draft. That's another silver lining. I don't feel this is a team that necessarily ought to be picking in the top 5-10 of the draft, but if they have to miss the playoffs, they might as well cash in with either another talented young d-man or a winger.
Norfolk gets shut out in the shootout.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 26 shots and 1 of 4 shooters to convert in the shootout session for the shootout loss.
BRI Haskins, (7) (Flood, Smith), 7:41
NOR Craig, (20) (Hall, Tyrell), 1:34
NOR Hall, (13) (Tyrell, Jackson), 3:34
BRI Haskins, (8) (Bentivoglio), 12:32
The luster is off the once perfect Juraj Simek in shootouts as he has been stopped in each of his last two attempts. The other Admirals who failed to convert were Justin Keller, Matt Fornataro, Blair Jones, and Mitch Fadden. Credit to Bridgeport goaltender Scott Monroe. Norfolk's shootout lineup is typically a murderer's row.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Five straight wins at home for the Admirals.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 28 shots before stopping 2 out of 4 shooters in the penalty shot session for the shootout win. Janus moved his record to above .500 for the season at 7-6-0 with the win, and he's riding a personal 5 game winning streak.
ALB Terry, (14) (FitzGerald), 3:47
NOR Hall, (12) (Tyrell, Craig), 9:59
NOR Keller, (13) (Mihalik, Tyrell), 16:07 (PP)
ALB McBain, (6) , 0:26
ALB- Terry, McBain
NOR- Keller, Jones, Fornataro, Fadden
In a stunning development, Juraj Simek, the Don of the Presov Mafia, was stopped for the first time all season in the shootout. He was the one and only Admiral to fail to convert on Justin Pogge. With a pair of assists, Dana Tyrell had his 5th multi-point game in his last 11 games, and he's on a 3-game point streak. Vladimir Mihalik notched his 6th point in his last 12 games and has matched his season total for point from a year ago and is 1 point shy of his career best AHL season. Paul Szczechura is about to be recalled to Tampa Bay and did not play tonight.
The win moves the Admirals to within 1 point of Albany for 2nd place in the East Division with the Rats holding 1 game in hand. The Admirals will give the Rats a rematch tomorrow night at The Scope, and a regulation win could move Norfolk into 2nd place all by themselves in the division. Fourth place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is losing 4-1 to Syracuse in the third period. If that holds up, Norfolk will move 7 points up on the Penguins with the Pens holding 3 games in hand. 5th place Adirondack lost to Rochester 5-2 and, if the Crunch's score holds up, they'll be tied with Syracuse at 12 points behind the Admirals with each team holding 3 games in hand on Norfolk. Bolt Prospects has declared the Binghamton Senators deceased.
In the crossover, Bridgeport beat Portland 5-4, Providence fell to Manchester 2-1, and the Hartford Wolf Pack were idle. So, the Admirals remain 5 points up on the 5th place team in the Atlantic (Bridgeport), move 7 points up on the 6th place team (Providence) with the Bruins holding 2 games in hand, and the Admirals move 11 points up on 7th place Hartford with the Pack holding 3 games in hand. If the Admirals were to fall to 4th in the East Division, they would have to finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to make the postseason.
It's an epic clash tomorrow between the Admirals and the Rats with 2nd place in the division potentially up for grabs.
Box score from TheAHL.com.