Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory...
Antero Niittymaki allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the loss.
TB 16:50, Lundin 3 (Thompson, Meszaros)
CBS 18:04, Nash 32 (unassisted)
TB 8:06, Lecavalier 23 (St. Louis, Foster)(PP)
CBS 6:21, Tyutin 6 (Vermette, Huselius)
CBS 7:37, Nash 33 (Umberger, Huselius)(PP)
The Lightning have dropped into the third worst record in the NHL. That's quite possibly the worst spot they could be in because the 2010 draft looks like a two player draft at the top (Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall), so the Lightning might not even get a consolation prize for this late season collapse. The Lightning remain 3 points ahead of Toronto with the Lightning actually holding a game in hand.
Vladimir Mihalik was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:40.
The Lightning are 8 points out of 8th with 7 games remaining, so it's getting to the point where the playoffs are extremely improbable statistically. When your best defenseman is Mike Lundin, you've got problems. It's just bizarre the way that several of the young forwards have progressed this season. Steve Downie got his 21st of the season tonight and Steven Stamkos has obviously been unconscious all year. But, these young d-men have not really progressed. Hedman has slid backward. Meszaros continues to steal money. Matt Smaby appears to have been banished to Chateau au Bow Wow. The only guy who has progressed has been Lundin, and somewhere off with Ricky Williams and Dave Chappelle, Paul Ranger has to be glad he isn't stuck in the middle of this. The goaltending, I believe, is a personnel issue. The defense is, in my mind, both a personnel and a coaching issue (and, in fairness, the Lightning have been struck with injuries again late in the year).
I hope, at some point soon, the decision to move at least Mark Parrish and possibly also Paul Szczechura down to Norfolk with the Admirals just 2 points out of a playoff spot. The Lightning's chances are a lost cause. The Admirals are one good weekend away from being back in the dance.
Dear Vincent Lecavalier: if you're going to retaliate on someone, do it with your fists, not with your stick. Please. The latter gets you suspended.
Big Vladimir Mihalik was -1 in 12:10 of ice time. I doubt that's the effort he needed to get himself penciled into next year's plans.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced Norfolk defenseman Vladimir Mihalik has been recalled for the Lightning's Saturday night game against Buffalo. In 70 games for the Admirals this season, Mihalik has two goals, 15 assists for 17 points. He's also a plus-8 with 65 penalty minutes.
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.