The Connecticut Whale and Norfolk Admirals met at the XL Center on Monday for game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series (ECSF series ‘I’). The Whale needed a win to even the series, 2-2, and a brilliant defensive effort led them to a 4-1 victory.
The first period of the tilt started off at an extremely slow pace, with only 10 total shots being fired in the first 19 minutes. Each team traded power-play chances as well, but no goals were scored on the advantages.
In the final minute of the period, however, the Whale caught a break as the normally steady Norfolk defense made a sloppy error that led to a late-Whale goal.
At 19:05 of period 1, Whale rookie Jonathan Audy-Marchessault collected a loose puck near the blueline, skated into the offensive-zone with just one Admirals defenseman back, and snapped a shot through Dustin Tokarski’s five-hole and into Norfolk’s net for a goal. It was Audy-Marchessault’s third goal of the post-season, with assists going to his line-mates Andre Deveaux and Kris Newbury, and the Whale carried a 1-0 lead into the second frame.
Early in the second period, the Whale added to its lead on a goal by Scott Tanski at 3:56. Tanski, who was playing in his second pro playoff game, picked-up a loose puck near the Norfolk net, skated around the right face-off dot; spun past an Admirals defenseman, and fired a shot past a crowded crease and into the Norfolk net for his first playoff goal. Tanski’s goal gave the Whale a 2-0 lead, and it was assisted by line-mates Kelsey Tessier and Tommy Grant.
The Whale and Admirals once again traded power-play opportunities late in the period, but both teams failed to score on their man-advantages.
In the third period, the Admirals finally broke through on Whale goaltender Cam Talbot, with a goal at the 7:42 mark. Richard Panik scored the goal, his first of the post-season, after receiving a pass from line-mate Alex Killorn, and sending a shot over Talbot’s blocker-side to cut Connecticut’s lead to 2-1.
Connecticut regained its two-goal lead at the 16:48 mark of period 3, on a goal scored by Casey Wellman, his fourth of the playoffs. The play started in the neutral-zone, where Whale’ right-winger Marek Hrivik found Wellman with a pass. Wellman then carried the puck into the offensive-zone on a 2-on-1 with defenseman Pavel Valentenko; fed Valentenko with a pass, and shoved the return feed past Tokarski for the goal.
The Whale would seal the deal with an empty-net goal at 17:51, scored by Newbury. The veteran centerman grabbed a loose puck in the defensive-zone and sent a long shot into the empty Norfolk net for his first goal of the playoffs, giving the Whale a 4-1 win.
Before the final buzzer, Whale’ defenseman Dylan McIlrath squared-off with Norfolk tough-guy, Scott Jackson at center-ice following a high-hit that Jackson delivered to Whale’ rookie Ryan Bourque. McIlrath landed a few punches before knocking Jackson to the ice. Jackson received a 10-minute misconduct for continuing the altercation, while two other Norfolk players—Mike Angelidis and Pierre-Cedric Labrie—also received 10-minute misconducts for their actions late in the game.
The three stars of the game were all from the Whale side, with Talbot getting the first-star, Tanksi the second-star and Audy-Marchessault the third-star…other notable performances from the Whale included Newbury’s 1-1-2, plus-2, four shots-on-goal…Newbury led the Whale in shots for the game with four, followed by Jordan Owens and Andreas Thuresson who both recorded three…Talbot made 19 saves on 20 shots-against, earning his fifth win of the playoffs…the Whale power-play was 0-for-4 in the game, but its penalty-killing was a perfect 6-for-6…
Final score: Whale 4, Admirals 1 (Series tied 2-2)
The series continues with game 5 on Wednesday at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. Puck-drop is scheduled for 7pm (ET), and it is considered a Whale home game.
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