The Connecticut Whale did their best impression of illusionist Criss Angel Tuesday night when they made a 4-0 lead and two standings points disappear in a span of just 12:04 and like the Long Island magician they made it look effortless.
After being soundly thrashed by the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday afternoon in a 4-0 rout, the Whale came firing out of the locker room like the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae and by the time it was over they left looking like the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
It was clear from the get go that there were scores yet to be settled from the two team’s last tumultuous meeting on Dec. 11 in Hartford, a 5-1 Whale win.
Just 2:34 into the game, Devin DiDiomete would have his first of two bouts with Left-Winger Richard Clune.
The Whale continued to pressure Manchester early at the Verizon Wireless Arena and it paid off when Jordan Nolan took an interference call at 3:04.
Dale Weise in his second game back with the Whale after a one game call-up with the parent NY Rangers last week, scored his third goal in the last four games when, just 20 seconds into the power play, he took a Wade Redden entry pass created space for himself and fired an NHL caliber wrister from the left circle and over the right shoulder of starter Jeff Zatkoff (6 saves). Whale starting netminder Cam Talbot (5-2-2, 28 saves) got his first professional point with the secondary assist.
24 seconds later the Whale struck again.
Tim Kennedy fed Ryan McDonagh on the left point. The rookie defenseman put a low, hard shot on goal that first hit Monarch’s defenseman David Kolomatis on the left side and redirected to the right where it hit left winger David Meckler and came back to the center of the crease where Chad Kolarik registered his eighth goal (12th of the season) since joining the Whale on Nov. 11th, when the forward ripped it past Zatkoff from “dead-red.”
At 6:13, the Heavyweight dropped the gloves for an extended and punch heavy tango as Justin Soryal and Justin Johnson traded haymakers that the Whale winger got the better of before the Linesman separated them.
Talbot flashed the glove several times first stoning Andrei Loktionov and then erasing a Corey Elkins bid for glory.
With the Whale dominating all over the ice a Ryan Garlock shot hit Zatkoff and fell to the ice. Justin Azevedo tried to sweep it away from the crease, but DiDiomete crashed the net hard and sent the puck out of the pile up in front and into the back of the net. Garlock and Tomas Kundratek was given his first of two helpers on the contest. It was 3-0.
As the period came to it’s close, it was best summed up when a Stu Bickel defensive zone give away to Loktionov. Talbot rose to the occasion and stoned Loktionov from in close.
But somewhere between going to the locker and coming out for the second period, the team lost it’s focus and it’s ambition.
Manchester made a goaltending change to start the second period. Enter Martin Jones a 6’4” 191 pounder who came in in relief with a 1.60GAA, a .950% and a 9-2-0 record in 14 appearances.
It was not going to be an easy task going forward that’s for sure.
The Whale didn’t help themselves much to start the second period going the first 8:50 without registering a shot on net, but then they their first one count.
Kris Newbury, who’s made a living these days finding and connecting with someone from behind the goal line, this time from the right side found Justin Williams, not his usual recipient Mats Zuccarello who was serving a one-game suspension for Boarding Jonathan Cheechoo, alone in the slot. Williams one-timed the puck and beat Jones high to the glove side. It was 4-0.
As difficult as things were, for some reason after that goal the team essentially decided the game was over and just packed it in. Under most normal circumstances teams would understandably take their foot a bit off the accelerator, go into defensive mode and just ride out their lead to victory. The only problem with the plan though was that somebody neglected to tell that to the Monarchs that they were supposed to roll over and take the loss quietly.
The Monarchs raised their intensity, began to pressure the puck and win the battles against their visitors. The LA Kings AHL Affiliate scored their first goal on the power play with Pavel Valentenko in the box for an interference call at 12:33.
Less than a minute later Oscar Moller, like Weise, just back from a recall with the big club, tallied his first of two when he bombed a slapper from the top of the right circle through traffic that found the it’s way over Talbot’s stick side blocker for the goal. It was Miller’s (12 saves, 10-2-0), sixth of the season.
1:43 later Moller would connect on a second tally.
Moller got the puck just outside the left side of the crease after Elkins made like he was taking the puck around the back of the net, but instead made a perfect pass right to the Moller’s stick. Moller then lifted a shot that found some space over and between Talbot and the post. The puck flew over Talbot’s shoulder and Moller had his second of the game. It was 4-2.
The Monarchs made it a one goal differential just 3:42 into the third period when Johnson’s shot on goal caused this big scramble in front. With a pile of bodies in the crease, including Talbot’s, the puck squirted out to the left wing circle. Thomas Hickey hustled out to retrieve it and he turn and blasted a shot that found it’s way through the pile of humanity and hit pay-dirt. Manchester had erased three of the four goal lead.
Manchester captain Marc-Andre Cliché drew his team to even against a Rangers organization that traded him away when he took an excellent cross ice pass from Loktionov and buried it past Talbot. Cliché was that wide open because both defensemen, Stu Bickel and McDonagh, were caught chasing after the puck in the far corner leaving the front of the crease wide open for Cliché to finish.
Just like that, the four goal lead was gone.
The only question remained at that point was if The Whale would be able to hold on to at least get a point out of this game. Momentum had totally left them and gone to the other side.
While they did not surrender anything in the 14:29 that remained in regulation, they were unable to mount any sort of sustained offensive pressure or get any real shots that challenged Jones in a serious manner.
Despite having given up four, Talbot battled valiantly and the Whale only even got a point because of his strong play between the pipes.
Talbot made stellar stops on John Zeiler with a blocker with just under six minutes to go and then he stood strong through a sixty second sequence where the Whale could not clear the puck out of their own end. Talbot stood tall against several scoring chances for the hosts.
Connecticut held on long enough to get the game to overtime and at least salvage themselves a standings point.
Moller almost had his hat-trick just 15 seconds in to the extra period but was denied by Talbot.
Manchester kept the pressure on and put three shots on Talbot in extended time, but the Whale rookie was up to the challenge and it was off to the shootout.
Connecticut entered the game 2-4 in shootouts. They’d leave 2-5.
Elkins beat Talbot on the first attempt with a wrister that scored stick side.
Kolarik missed high and wide on Connecticut’s first attempt.
Loktionov was turned aside by a blocker save.
Williams knotted the score with a nice shot going top corner on the glove side.
Azevedo then connected off a nice fake, got Talbot down and then put it in the corner of the net past his outstretched glove.
Weise then took a chance and while his shot got past Jones, it hit the crossbar and flew out of the way harmlessly.
Moller then connected sending a shot through the legs of Talbot.
It all came down to Tim Kennedy. The Whale center came in with speed and his shot missed the net and the Monarchs had their victory with a 301 win in the shootout and a 5-4 overall victory.
Talbot had lost his four game win streak turned aside with the loss despite an very strong effort for the Whale.
Had the Whale been able to hold on to the lead they’d have been able to tie Worcester for third place in the standings. Instead they remain a point behind and have to hope for a little help as they also remain two games in hand to their Massachusetts neighbors.
Connecticut has two points on the fifth place Sound Tigers but Bridgeport, their next opponent after the holiday break, has two games in hand as well. This makes Sunday’s head-to-head visit at the Arena at Harbor Yard that much more important.
* The Whale at least a standings point in 11 of their last 12 games (8-1-0-3) and 13 of their last 15 (10-2-0-3)
* Marc-Andre Cliché was a 2nd round NY Rangers draft pick (#56 overall) in 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
* Trivia: How did Cliché become a member of the LA Kings organization? Answer: He, Jason Ward, and Jan Marek were traded by the NY Rangers to the LA Kings for Sean Avery and John Seymour on Feb. 5th 2007
* Newbury ended a streak of eight games with at least a point when he was held off the scorer’s sheet against Syracuse but got right back on it again Tuesday.
* Lee Baldwin played for the first time in 11 games. His last appearance was on November 21st at Hershey. He does not have a point on the season.
* DiDiomete’s goal broke an 18-game goal-less streak.
* Whale are now 6-6-0-4 on the road (8-6-2-1 at home)
* Kundratek posted the first multiple-point game of his pro career with two assists and was the game’s third star.
Dupont – Newbury – Weise
Kolarik – Kennedy – Williams
Grachev – Eizenman
Soryal – Garlock – DiDiomete
Redden – Nightingale
McDonagh – Bickel
Valentenko – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Mats Zuccarello – One Game Suspension
Kelsey Tessier – Healthy Scratch
Jyri Niemi – Healthy Scratch
1. MCH – O. Moller
2. MCH – J. Azevedo
3. CT – T. Kundratek
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Francis Charron (46)
Mark Lemelin (84)
Landon Bathe (80)
Joe Ross (92)
The Whale are now off for the Christmas break an will reconvene Sunday in Bridgeport for a 3pm battle with the Sound Tigers. Bob Crawford and the pregame go on the air at 2:30pm.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 4 at Manchester Monarchs 5 (SO) – Status: Final SO
Tuesday, December 21, 2010 – Verizon Wireless Arena
Connecticut 3 1 0 0 – 4
Manchester 0 2 2 0 – 5
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Weise 7 (Redden, Talbot), 3:24 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Kolarik 12 (McDonagh, Kennedy), 3:48. 3, Connecticut, DiDiomete 3 (Garlock, Kundratek), 15:43. Penalties-DiDiomete Ct (fighting), 2:34; Clune Mch (fighting), 2:34; Nolan Mch (interference), 3:04; Soryal Ct (fighting), 6:13; Johnson Mch (fighting), 6:13; Valentenko Ct (interference), 10:48; DiDiomete Ct (fighting), 20:00; Clune Mch (fighting), 20:00.
2nd Period-4, Connecticut, Williams 17 (Newbury, Kundratek), 8:50. 5, Manchester, Moller 7 (Voynov, Loktionov), 13:27 (PP). 6, Manchester, Moller 8 (Elkins, Hickey), 15:10. Penalties-McDonagh Ct (hooking), 4:22; King Mch (cross-checking), 5:32; Valentenko Ct (interference), 12:33; Moller Mch (high-sticking), 18:30.
3rd Period-7, Manchester, Hickey 5 (Clune, Johnson), 3:42. 8, Manchester, Cliche 7 (Loktionov, Moller), 5:31. Penalties-Dupont Ct (roughing), 3:27; Newbury Ct (fighting), 3:27; Campbell Mch (roughing), 3:27; Voynov Mch (fighting), 3:27; Valentenko Ct (boarding), 7:35.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Voynov Mch (delay of game), 4:45.
Shootout – Connecticut 1 (Kolarik NG, Williams G, Weise NG, Kennedy NG), Manchester 3 (Elkins G, Loktionov NG, Azevedo G, Moller G).
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-6-6-1-0-22. Manchester 10-8-11-3-1-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 4; Manchester 1 / 4.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 5-2-1 (32 shots-28 saves). Manchester, Zatkoff 10-9-1 (9 shots-6 saves); Jones 9-2-0 (13 shots-12 saves).
Referees-Francis Charron (46), Mark Lemelin (84).
Linesmen-Landon Bathe (80), Joe Ross (92).