On Sunday, the Connecticut Whale and Norfolk Admirals met for game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series (ECSF series ‘I’) at the XL Center, as the clubs battled for the 2-1 series lead. Despite scoring first for the first time in the series—and carrying a 2-1 lead in to the second period—the Whale was unable to stop a powerful offensive surge by Norfolk in the final half of period 2. The Admirals struck for two quick goals mid-way through the second period, and one late-goal, as they topped the Whale, 4-3, in front of a Hartford crowd of 3,319.
The story of game 2 was discipline, or lack thereof, as the Whale faced 11 Norfolk power-plays. Team discipline was a major goal entering tonight’s tilt, but just 14 seconds into the game, Whale’ defenseman Pavel Valentenko was called for interference and the Whale found themselves killing a penalty right away.
Luckily for the Whale, the penalty-killing tandems, led by goaltender Cam Talbot, successfully eliminated Norfolk’s opportunity to keep the game scoreless. The whistle-happy officials made another quick penalty call, sending the Whale to a power-play at 3:53 after calling Admirals’ Trevor Smith for boarding.
The Whale took advantage of the power-play, as Casey Wellman put his club ahead, 1-0, at the 5:20 mark. The play started on a terrific forecheck by Whale forwards Marek Hrivik and Andreas Thuresson, as the wingers quickly chased a puck in the left offensive-zone corner, forcing Norfolk’s J.P. Cote to send an errant pass through the crease. Wellman intercepted the pass and sent a shot past Norfolk goalie Dustin Tokarski for his second goal of the playoffs, giving the Whale its first lead of the series (aside from the 3-2 overtime victory in game 1).
Nearly a minute later, the Whale received another power-play opportunity after Admirals forward Brendan Segal was called for slashing at 6:23, but this time it was Norfolk’s special teams that created a goal. During the regular-season, the Whale was tied for last in short-handed goals allowed, surrendering only three in 76 games.
On the first Whale power-play, Norfolk’s Tyler Johnson created a shorthanded breakaway opportunity, only to be stoned by Talbot. This time it was Admirals’ forward Ondrej Palat who broke past the Whale defense and skated into Connecticut’s defensive-zone one-on-one with Talbot on a shorthanded breakaway. Palat made a quick move as he approached the crease, sending Talbot one way, and the puck the other as he stuffed a backhand shot across the goal-line for his second tally of the post-season; tying the game, 1-1.
Connecticut regained its first period lead at the 17:12 mark, when winger Andre Deveaux tapped a rebound past Tokarski for his second goal of the playoffs. Kris Newbury started the play with a drop pass to Hrivik, who then powered his way past a pair of Admirals defensemen, and toward Norfolk’s net. Hrivik lost control of the puck as he bumped into Tokarski, but luckily for the Whale it bounced off the Norfolk goaltender and onto Deveaux’s blade for an easy tap-in. Deveaux’s goal gives him a two-game goal-scoring streak, and Hrivik’s assist gives him a five-game point-streak. Also, Newbury’s assist was point No.1 of the post-season; and the Whale had a 2-1 lead entering period 2.
The Whale failed to score on an early power-play chance in the second period, but started the frame strong as they led the Admirals in shots, 11-1, at the 10-minute mark.
Norfolk fought back, however, and struck for three goals in the final half of the second period to take a 4-2 lead into the third frame.
The first of the three goals was a power-play tally at 11:31 of the period, scored by Alex Killorn. Killorn shoved a rebound past Talbot for his third goal of the playoffs, tying the game, 2-2. Mike Kostka and Alexandre Picard assisted on the goal.
Only 45 seconds later, at 12:16, Trevor Smith re-directed a Mark Barberio slap-shot past Talbot for his third goal of the post-season. Cory Conacher started the play by setting Barberio up with a perfect feed from the goal-line. Barberio one-timed the pass at Talbot, and Smith’s deflection was enough to direct the puck across the Whale goal-line to give the Admirals a 3-2 lead.
Then at 17:40, the Admirals added to their lead when Captain Mike Angelidis found a loose puck in Talbot’s crease, and shoved it by him for a late goal. Talbot made the initial save on Michel Oullet, but the rebound caromed on to Angelidis’ stick, and he banged in his first goal of the post-season to give the Admirals a 4-2 lead. Radko Gudas also assisted on the goal.
Near the end of period 2, the officials made two penalty calls that would set up an abbreviated 4-on-4 to begin the third period. First, Connecticut’s Deveaux was called for roughing at 18:51, then Norfolk’s Picard was assessed a roughing-minor at the buzzer for knocking Newbury’s helmet off during a period ending scrum.
The 4-on-4 didn’t last long, though, as Norfolk’s Barberio was called for holding only 43 seconds into period 3, eventually setting up a 5-on-3 power-play for the Whale, and a chance for the hosts to make it a one-goal game.
At 1:06 of the third period, the Whale successfully made it a 4-3 game when Wellman scored his second power-play goal of the night, and third goal of the playoffs on a one-timer from the right-point. Newbury set Wellman up with a soft pass that the centerman sent flying past Tokarski and into the Norfolk cage. Tim Erixon also assisted on the goal.
Shockingly, no penalties were called after the 2:43 mark of the third period, despite the several post-whistle battles and hard-hitting theme of the tilt.
The Whale only fired five shots-on-goal during the third period, and aside from Wellman’s power-play score, Tokarski stopped all chances to give the Admirals a 4-3 win in game 3, and the 2-1 series lead entering Monday’s game 4.
The three stars of the game were Palat (1), Wellman (2) and Tokarski (3)…other notable performances from the Whale side included Nebwury’s 0-2-2, plus-1, three shots-on-goal; and Deveaux’s 1-0-1, plus-1, one shot-on-goal…Wellman led the Whale in shots for the game with five, followed by Newbury, Jonathan Audy-Marchessualt, Jared Nightingale, Jordan Owens, and Thuresson who each had three…Talbot made 18 saves in the game, dropping his second consecutive tilt…the Whale power-play was 2-for-5 in the game, while its penalty-killing was 3-for-4…
Final score: Norfolk 4, Whale 3 (Admirals lead series, 2-1)
The series picks-up tomorrow night at the XL Center, when the Whale hosts the Admirals for game 4 at 7pm (ET).
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