Throughout the 2011-2012 season the Whale have had two glaring problems: allowing quick back-to-back goals and not holding third period leads. Both of those Achilles Heel issues haunted the Whale Saturday night as they dropped a 5-4 decision, their ninth straight in a ten round shootout to the visiting Norfolk Admirals in front of a lively crowd of 5,557 on Wade Redden Bobblehead night at the XL Center.
Scott Tanski had a very strong game for the Whale with his first multi-goal game punching two into the Norfolk net while Kelsey Tessier added two assists.
“I’m pleased we got some secondary scoring,” Whale coach Ken Gernander said in his post game press conference.
Erik Christensen, playing in the last game of his two-week conditioning stint with the Whale, easily scored in the shootout – as he does in the NHL as well, so no surprise there – was the only Whale player in the ten round shootout who was able to beat Jaroslav Janus (8-6-2, 25 saves) who got the win in relief of starter Dustin Tokarski who allowed all three Whale shots he faced to get to the back of the net.
Meanwhile for the Whale, Chad Johnson struggled between the pipes again stopping 30 0f 34 during regulation and overtime and 8-of-10 in the shootout. Johnson lost his fifth straight start (0-3-0-2). “You’re judged on the ones you save and you’re judged on the ones you don’t save,” an obviously displeased Gernander said of his number one netminder.
“We had the good lead there after the first (period), they got one back in the second,” Gernander explained. “We put the emphasis on finishing the game strong, not sitting back on the attack; we were unable to hold onto that third period lead and they won in the shootout.”
“I don’t think we started the second with a ball of fire. Even after we got the three goals, I don’t know how much offense we generated after that.”
An early mistake started the Whale off on the wrong foot. Johnson allowed a soft goal to Tyler Johnson (no relation) with what seemed like a routine shot from the right wing circle that beat the Whale netminder under the blocker just 39 seconds into the contest. But rather than curling up like a ball and playing dead, instead, it ignited the the Whale. They responded with their play that would best be summed up using the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield in the film Pulp Fiction. The Whale “(struck) down upon (the Admirals) with great vengeance and furious anger…” and chased Tokarski with a vicious assault on the Admirals net. The Whale were everywhere. They out-hit, out-worked and out-hustled the Admirals all over the ice.
Michel Ouelette took a charging penalty on Andre Deveaux at 1:16 and then the Whale forward made them pay for it by deflecting a Kris Newbury shot from the right circle past Tokarski ten seconds later for the power play tally. Christensen was awarded the secondary helper.
2:23 seconds later at 3:49, the Whale would take the lead, 2-1.
Norfolk defenseman Scott Jackson attempted to clear the puck from just inside the left wing blueline of the Norfolk defensive zone. The puck hit his teammate, Corey Conacher, just in front of the penalty box door on the left wing side. The puck ricocheted off Conacher, hit Tessier’s shin-pad as he was closing in on the rookie left winger and squirted out into the open ice.
“I was coming off the bench,” Tanski said in describing his third goal of the season. “I kind of saw it sputter out into the neutral zone and we had a change, so I jumped on. The eyes kind of light-up because I know there’s nobody back, so I kind of pounced on it and took it down. I knew I was going to shoot all the way ‘cause I don’t get opportunities like that… I tried to give a little fake and (Tokarski) dropped his glove and I put it in the right place.”
The Whale found the back of the net again at 6:33 when Tessier made a tremendous pass from the left wing boards across to the right side where Ryan Bourque was all alone. Bourque settled the puck and snapped a shot that hit Tokarski right in the glove and went into the net for his third of the season.
The Whale had scored on their first three shots of the game and sent Tokarski, who’d beaten them twice the previous weekend to the bench.
But the Whale let up in the second period and at 3:58, Jordan Owens, who had a strong game otherwise, made a mental mistake and turned the puck over in the defensive zone. The puck went right to Ondrej Palat in the left circle and the Admirals’ left winger fired it past the glove of Johnson to make it a 3-2 game. and that was how they went to the second intermission.
Entering the game, the Whale were 10-2-2-1 when leading after two periods. Contrast that with Norfolk who was 15-0-1-0 in the same scenario and had come back to win in five of 19 games where they trailed after two (5-13-0-1). With the Whale shaky with the lead and Norfolk being a good comeback team, that made for a tenuous situation at best.
At 6:10 of the third, a misplay by Jared Nightingale along the wall by the Whale blueline allowed Carter Ashton to break in alone on Johnson. Ashton put on a fake that got Johnson to bite and the right winger roofed a backhander over Johnson’s glove for the equalizer.
18 seconds later, after Aaron Voros took an unwise and unnecessary cross-checking call, Conacher gave the Admirals the lead for the second time when his shot from the left circle with Brendan Bell coming at him and perhaps screening Johnson a bit, beat the Whale netminder to the glove side restoring the Norfolk lead at 4-3.
Owens, Tanski and Tommy Grant had a strong night all over the ice and their intense forecheck paid dividends at 8:13. Grant took a puck from Owens along the half boards on the left wing side. Tanski charge the net and Grant put the puck on net. Tanski put his stick out and redirected it past Janus to knot the score and send the game eventually to overtime.
The Whale had their chances in OT as they pressed hard to get the game-winner. Their strongest chance came just 34 seconds in when Christensen made a strong move around Jean-Philippe Cote that was denied by Janus.
In the shootout, Johnson surrendered a goal to Mike Kostka in the third round and was strong until the tenth when Ouelette would win it with a strong move and a stronger finish.
“We’re gonna have a good week of practice. We’ve got two more big games next weekend headed into the All-Star break,” Gernander said. “We’d like to get some points headed into the All-Star break so everybody can relax and have a good feeling.”
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* Deveaux’s power play goal was his 10th of the season (12 overall) and ties him for second in the league one back of Hershey’s Graham Mink.
* Lots of NYR brass were in attendance Saturday. Among them were Whale GM and Rangers AGM/Assistant Coach Jim Schoenfeld, AGM Jeff Gorton, as well as a number of scouts and goaltending coach Benoit Allaire.
* One of the fan favorite events of the CT Whale, as it was with the Hartford Wolf Pack, is the Annual Tip-A-Player Dinner and Sports Carnival to benefit the Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in Wallingford. It happens Sunday (Today 1-22-12) from 4 to 7 pm on the floor of the XL Center. Whale players serve dinner and take part in other activities including autographs and photos, locker room tours and a silent auction. Tickets ($30 for adults, $20 for children 12 and under) will be available at the door. There are all sorts of challenges that the players take part in and they’re usually VERY funny…also shows you how competitive they are. Who can forget the food eating contests from last year that left forward Ryan Garlock barely able to stand up from eating so much.
* New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was named an assistant captains for NHL All-Star Weekend in Ottawa. Lundqvist will be an Assistant with the team of captained by Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson. The coach of that team? Rangers head coach John Tortorella and Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks.
Bouchard – Christensen – Thuresson
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Voros – Tessier – Bourque
Grant – Owens – Tanski
Erixon – Nightingale
Bell – Klassen
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Wade Redden – Lower Body – Three to Four Weeks
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body Injury – Day-to-Day
Sean Avery – Healthy Scratch
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
1. NOR – R. Panik
2. CT – S. Tanski
3. CT – K. Tessier
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Terry Koharski (10)
Derek Wahl (46)
Luke Galvin (2)
Nine games without a win and still in first place entering Sunday’s action says a lot about how well the Whale were playing. After some fun at the Tip-A-Player event on Sunday, the team will have a hard week of practices and try and find what has been missing and then they will regroup next Friday night at the XL Center as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins challenge the Whale. Bob Crawford goes on the air with the pre-game show at 6:50. The game can be heard on WCCC.com.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Norfolk Admirals 5 (SO) at Connecticut Whale 4 – Status: Final SO
Saturday, January 21, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Norfolk 1 1 2 0 – 5
Connecticut 3 0 1 0 – 4
1st Period-1, Norfolk, Johnson 14 (Ashton, Conacher), 0:39. 2, Connecticut, Deveaux 12 (Newbury, Christensen), 1:26 (PP). 3, Connecticut, Tanski 3 (Tessier), 3:49. 4, Connecticut, Bourque 3 (Tessier, Parlett), 6:33. Penalties-Ouellet Nor (slashing), 1:16; Angelidis Nor (roughing), 9:03; Owens Ct (roughing), 9:03; Bell Ct (interference), 10:55.
2nd Period-5, Norfolk, Palat 3 3:58. Penalties-Conacher Nor (goaltender interference), 0:19; Newbury Ct (goaltender interference), 5:41; Johnson Nor (boarding), 14:39.
3rd Period-6, Norfolk, Ashton 16 (Panik, Jackson), 6:10. 7, Norfolk, Conacher 24 (Kostka), 6:28 (PP). 8, Connecticut, Tanski 4 (Grant, Owens), 8:13. Penalties-Jackson Nor (fighting), 6:10; Nightingale Ct (fighting), 6:10; Voros Ct (cross-checking), 6:10.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Angelidis Nor (roughing), 3:40; Newbury Ct (roughing), 3:40.
Shootout – Norfolk 2 (Gudas NG, Ashton NG, Kostka G, Barberio NG, Conacher NG, Ouellet NG, Fornataro NG, Dimmen NG, Johnson NG, Panik G), Connecticut 1 (Christensen G, Audy-Marchessault NG, Bell NG, Newbury NG, Tanski NG, Bouchard NG, Thuresson NG, Bourque NG, Deveaux NG, Erixon NG).
Shots on Goal-Norfolk 8-8-13-5-1-35. Connecticut 7-7-11-4-0-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Norfolk 1 / 3; Connecticut 1 / 3.
Goalies-Norfolk, Tokarski 17-9-0 (3 shots-0 saves); Janus 8-6-2 (26 shots-25 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 10-8-5 (34 shots-30 saves).
Referees-Terry Koharski (10).
Linesmen-Derek Wahl (46), Luke Galvin (2).