Tampa Bay changed their AHL affiliate shortly after winning the Calder Cup as the Norfolk Admirals last season. The core of that club skated into Syracuse where they continued their winning ways during this regular season.
Rallying from a miserable Game One, in which the Crunch took a 4-1 first period lead, and never looked back, was important to the Falcons game plan on Saturday. Springfield needed to return to disciplined, Falcons hockey in an attempt to even the series.
In what could only be described as a shocking turn of events, a Boone Jenner minor penalty for roughing just 36 seconds into the game allowed Syracuse the opportunity to set their power play in motion. Richard Panik delivered for his third goal in 5 Crunch playoff games.
Still more shocking was the Falcon collapse a mere 13 seconds after the Panik marker. Captain Mike Angelidis picked up his second goal of the playoffs, boosting the Crunch to a 2-0 lead before many of the fans had even found their seats.
However, Saturday's Game Two had a different feel to it. After digging the 2-0 hole, the teams turned in the kind of effort that earned them this playoff run. Displaying his usual hard work, Ryan Russell scored his first goal of the postseason to cut the margin to 2-1.
Near the top of the Syracuse crease, Russ finished off a sweet play that started with a Dalton Prout shot from the blue line. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault was deep along with Russell and had a whack at the Prout rebound. Russell stood his ground and deposited the puck past Cedrick Desjardins to pull the Falcons within a goal.
Michael Chaput played some really good two way hockey throughout the game. In particular, even though he was kept off the scoresheet on Saturday, he showed quite a bit of speed, especially through the neutral zone. I really like Chaput's game.
Early in the middle frame, JAM took a minor for slashing. In the first two games of this series, Springfield has taken an uncharacteristic number of penalties (10 penalties for 23 minutes on Saturday, following 11 penalties for 28 minutes on Friday). Giving a club like Syracuse so many opportunities with the extra skater are an invitation to disaster.
Forever...well, it at least seems that long that Brad Larsen has kept the Birds in a structured mindset. After surrendering one power play goal on Friday, Springfield gave up three with the man advantage on Saturday. Obviously, that has to stop if the Falcons want to get back in this series as it heads to Syracuse for Games 3, 4 and 5 this coming week.
AHL MVP Tyler Johnson cemented his rapidly growing legend status with two quick markers in the second period, one on the PP and one shorty, extending the Crunch lead back to a comfortable three goal margin. Johnson's efforts earned him the #1 Star in both Games One and Two of the series.
Trent Vogelhuber redirected a Cody Goloubef shot from the point 24 seconds after Johnson's short-handed goal. Similar to Russell's goal earlier and Cody Bass' two OT beauties against Manchester, Vogs cut across the top of the crease and got wood on the shot to redirect the puck past Desjardins, cutting the Crunch lead to 4-2.
Late in the period, JT Wyman made a pretty poor choice when he went to dance with Dalton Prout. Prout had taken one of the Crunch players into the boards and Wyman took issue with it. Prout pummelled Wyman in a lopsided bout. Check it out:
Johnson re-established the three goal margin for the Crunch when he finished off his hat trick on the power play early in the final frame.
Springfield didn't give up though. Boone Jenner tipped in a Nick Holden point shot to once again close the margin to two. JAM also assisted on Boone's second playoff goal.
The teams played a fast paced game the rest of the way. Good scoring opportunites and good goaltending took over for the number of special teams situations that dominated the first two periods. I can't say the officials were bad in this game, but they were active. Once they put the whistles away and let the boys play, we were treated to a fast paced, well skated hockey game.
Down two games to none, the Falcons head to Syracuse for Game Three on Wednesday night. Although it's not technically a "do or die" game for the Falcons, we all know what a three game deficit will be like against this high powered Syracuse team. Games Four and Five are scheduled for Syracuse next Friday and Saturday.