The Connecticut Whale and Norfolk Admirals met for game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series (ECSF series ‘I’) on Friday, as the Whale attempted to take a 2-0 series lead back to Hartford.
Norfolk opened the scoring early in period 1, on a goal scored by Alex Killorn at the three-minute mark. Killorn was situated in front of Whale goaltender Cam Talbot when he received a pass from Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who had retrieved the loose puck behind Connecticut’s goal. Killorn quickly snapped the puck past Talbot, giving the Admirals a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Keith Aulie also assisted on Killorn’s second goal of the playoffs.
The Whale tried desperately to answer back, firing 13 shots in the period, most of which came on three power-play opportunities. But Admirals goaltender Dustin Tokarski stifled the Whale throughout period 1, stopping each shot to keep his club in the lead.
Norfolk would enter the second period with a two-goal lead, after defenseman Mike Kostka recorded an insurance goal at 17:44 of period 1. The play was started by Norfolk’s leading playoff scorer, Alexandre Picard, who carried the puck through the neutral zone and into Connecticut’s defensive end before reaching the left face-off dot, and sliding a perfect pass across the slot to Kostka; who one-timed the puck behind Talbot and into the Whale’ cage. It was Kostka’s first goal of the post-season, and it provided the Admirals with a 2-0 lead.
Period 2 opened with back-to-back Whale penalties, which the team successfully killed-off. At 6:28 of the period, the Whale caught a break when Norfolk’s Evan Oberg was assessed a double-minor penalty for high-sticking, giving the Whale a four-minute man-advantage.
During the second-half of the power-play, Whale forward Marek Hrivik tossed a harmless backhand shot at Tokarski, which the Admirals’ goaltender fumbled into the crease. The second and third Whale forwards on the ice crashed the net in search of the loose puck, and it finally appeared between Kelsey Tessier’s skates, with five players dueling for control. Tessier took a swing at the puck, connecting with the end of the blade with enough force to slide it towards Andre Deveaux, who was stationed near the crease. Deveaux quickly swiped at the puck and knocked it across the goal-line to cut the Admirals lead to 2-1. It was a power-play goal for the Whale, and Deveaux’s first of the post-season coming at 9:02.
After Deveaux’s goal, the Whale ran into some penalty trouble and eventually put the Admirals on a 5-on-3 power-play. Norfolk took advantage of its opportunity with a goal at 15:45, scored by Tyler Johnson. The play was started by Norfolk forward Trevor Smith, who collected a pass from Kostka and rifled a shot at Talbot from the above the hashmarks. Talbot made the initial save on Smith, but the rebound trickled free and landed directly on Johnson’s stick. Johnson flipped a shot over a sprawling Talbot and into the Whale’ net, giving the Admirals a 3-1 lead entering the third period.
Norfolk padded its lead on another power-play goal at 4:41 of period 3, scored by 2011-12 AHL Rookie of the Year, Cory Conacher. Conacher was situated at the left face-off circle, where he received a cross-ice pass from Johnson, and sent a one-timer past Talbot for his first playoff goal. Mark Barberio also received an assist on the goal, and Norfolk had a commanding 4-1 lead.
On a night that amassed 84 total penalty-minutes, post-whistle scrums were tradition throughout the tilt. One particular scrum that occurred at 6:08 of period 3 resulted in 42 penalty-minutes; four misconduct calls; and one game-misconduct.
It all started at the Whale blueline, after the whistle was blown on a delayed interference call to the Whale’ Deveaux. As the whistle blew, Deveaux and Norfolk’s Brandon Segal squared off and fought for a few seconds before Deveaux wrestled Segal to the ice, and threw a few extra punches. While the officials were dealing with Deveaux and Segal, players from both sides argued at center ice, as they did for most of the game. The final results included five-minute majors to both Deveaux and Segal for fighting, minor-penalties on Deveaux for interference and Kris Newbury for Unsportsmanlike conduct, 10-minute misconduct to Hrivik, and a game-misconduct to Deveaux for jersey violation rule 46.12 and for abuse of officials (rule 40).
According to the official rules, Deveaux will likely receive a suspension of at least three games. Expect an official ruling tomorrow.
Before the final buzzer each team traded power-play chances and failed to convert, as the game finished with Norfolk ahead, 4-1.
The three stars of the game were Tokarski (1), Johnson (2) and Kostka (3)…some notable performance from the Whale side included Jordan Owens’ team-leading six shot performance, and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault’s four shot performance…in goal, Talbot made 36 saves as he was dealt his first loss of the post-season…the Whale power-play was 1-for-7 on the night, while its penalty-killing was 9-for-11…in his professional playoff debut, Dylan McIlrath totaled two shots, an even rating and two penalty-minutes while paired with Captain Wade Redden…
Final score: Admirals 4, Whale 1 (Series tied 1-1)
The series continues on Sunday, when the Whale hosts Norfolk at 7pm (ET) at the XL Center for game 3.
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