Reacting early to the Falcons' indifference, the Sharks scored on their first shot of the game. Peter Sivak deked Falcons starter Allen York, giving Worcester a one goal cushion just two minutes into the game.
If a hockey club has been capable of flipping a switch and completely changing their level of play, it's been this year's Falcons. A minor penalty for hooking to James Livingston became the momentum changer. Although the Birds couldn't solve Sharks netminder Alex Stalock during the man advantage, it was clear that it would just be a matter of time.
Stalock registered 11 saves in the opening frame, keeping the Falcons off the board, maintaining the Sharks 1-0 lead. Recently returned to Worcester by San Jose, Stalock came into this game 12-0-1 in his career against the Falcons.
Hockey fights come in a wide variety and one of the quicker ones took place at 6:12 of the middle stanza. Yanni Gourde of the Sharks sought to extract his own brand of justice on Falcons newcomer Alex Aleardi. Gourde attacked Aleardi in the neutral zone, connected one solid blow and that was that.
Springfield rallied, finally capitalizing just past the 10 minute mark when Ryan Russell finished off a nice pass from Michael Chaput. Spencer Machacek picked up the primary assist on what would soon become a four point night for the former St. John's IceCap.
Knotted at one goal apiece, the Falcons stepped on the gas and continued to apply pressure to the reeling Sharks. Just over one minute after Russell's tally, captain Ryan Craig notched his 20th marker of the season, giving the Birds their first lead of the night.
Craig's goal was set up beautifully by Nick Holden and David Savard. Cam Atkinson perhaps said it best early this season when he said that Ryan Craig is, "the best captain I've ever played for". Craig has been a great leader for this year's Falcons team.
Obvious in hindsight, the last thing the Sharks needed to do was to give the Falcons a power play opportunity. They did just that when captain John McCarthy went to the "Fin Bin" for cross checking. Sean Collins converted for his ninth goal of the season, from Machacek and Holden, extending the Falcons lead to 3-1 through two periods.
Ryan Russell collected his second of the night just 21 seconds into the final period. The floodgates were officially open and Worcester took on the appearance of a team that was simply going through the motions.
My world is a busy place. Over the course of the next nine minutes, Alex Stalock's world became a mess. The Falcons continued to expertly apply pressure to the Sharks goalie. Worse yet for Stalock, his defense appeared to be helpless in, well, defending. A delight for Falcons fans, the third period had to be painful for Sharks fans with barely a glimmer of playoff hope remaining.
The Falcons lit the lamp three more times within 2 minutes and 10 seconds on goals by Machacek, Chaput and Collins. Each one prettier than the one before, causing the Shark faithful to storm the exits of the DCU Center. Shots on goal in the third period told the story of just how dominant the Falcons were as they outshot the Sharks by a 12-2 margin. Springfield outshot their hosts in the game, 36-16.
This Springfield lineup, which has had many incarnations since the NHL returned to the ice, continues to show a cohesiveness and dare I say, signs of dominance that could be a harbinger of a deep playoff run.
I may be guilty of saying this practically every time I get on the Falcons soapbox here at The Cannon, but Brad Larsen has done a phenomenal job of coaching this club. Props also to his two extremely capable assistants, Nolan Pratt and Jared Bednar. Their leadership extends to the players on the ice, and again, men like Craig, Joudrey and Russell have been an invaluable part of this team throughout the season.
Springfield closes out this week's three-in-three with a 4PM roadie in Portland, ME. The Pirates are currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, with just eight points fewer than the Falcons. This one, like so many on the schedule this late in the campaign, should be a dandy!