NORFOLK, Va. – Backed by three power play goals and two shorthanded goals, the Norfolk Admirals (32-18-1-2) extended their winning streak to a season-best five games by defeating the Syracuse Crunch (20-23-4-3), 7-4, on Friday night at Norfolk Scope Arena. The same teams meet at Scope tomorrow night at 7:15 p.m.
With the victory, the Admirals remain tied for first place in the East Division with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and move three points ahead of the third-place Hershey Bears.
Seven different Admirals registered goals in the contest: Mike Kostka, Tyler Johnson, Alexandre Picard, Cory Conacher, Mike Angelidis, Trevor Smith and Pierre-Cedric Labrie. Conacher, Kostka and Smith each scored a goal and added a pair of assists. Netminder Dustin Tokarski made 18 saves and is now tied for the AHL lead with 23 victories this season.
Kostka gave the Admirals an early 1-0 lead with his second shorthanded tally of the season. While the Crunch skated with a five-on-four man advantage, Johnson led a two-on-one rush up the ice and into the attacking zone. After Johnson slipped a pass to Kostka in the left circle, Kostka sent a shot from the left faceoff dot off of the defender and under Syracuse netminder Antero Niittymaki for his eighth goal of the season at 2:43 of the first period.
The Crunch knotted the game at 1-1 with a power play goal early in the second period. After a shot by Luca Caputi bounced off of Tokarski, J.F. Jacques passed the loose rebound to Riley Holzapfel, who then fired the puck into the open net at 5:07.
Less than five minutes later, Brandon McMillian gave the Crunch a 2-1 lead. Following a shot from the blue line, Dan Sexton tipped the puck off of Tokarski. As the puck stopped in front of the Norfolk netminder, McMillan picked up the loose puck and snuck it behind Tokarski at 9:37 of the middle frame.
With less than four minutes remaining in the period, the Admirals squared the game up at 2-2 with Johnson’s 18th goal of the season. From behind the net, Matt Fornataro fed a pass to Conacher along the left half boards. Conacher slipped a pass to Johnson in the left faceoff circle, and Johnson snapped a shot over the glove of a screened Niittymaki at 16:11.
As time wound down in the second period, the Admirals reclaimed a one-goal with a Picard power play tally. As the Admirals skated with a five-on-four advantage, Smith passed the puck from behind the goal line in the right corner to Picard on top of the crease. Picard chipped a shot over Niittymaki to give Norfolk a 3-2 lead with his third goal of the season at 19:16.
The Admirals extended their lead to 4-2 with less than six minutes gone in the third period. Conacher deflected a shot from the point by Evan Oberg over the glove of Niittymaki for his league-leading 29th goal of the season at 5:45.
Thirteen seconds after the Norfolk goal, Holzapfel brought the Crunch back to within one goal with his second tally of the night. Following a neutral zone turnover, Holzapfel picked up a pass from Andrew Gordon and tucked the puck around Tokarski to narrow the Admirals’ lead to 4-3 at 5:58 of the third.
Just under the midway point of the third period, the Admirals took a 5-3 lead with their second shorthanded goal of the night. With his team down a man, Angelidis received a breakout pass from Kostka. The Admirals’ captain skated in alone and banked a shot off of the blocker of Niittymaki for his 12th goal of the season at 9:57.
The Admirals extended their lead to 6-3 with their third power play goal of the night. After settling the puck down with his skate, Kostka threaded a pass to Smith on top of the crease. Smith tipped the pass over Niittymaki for his 21st of the season at 12:00.
Exactly one minute later, Labrie ended the night for Niittymaki as he tipped a shot by Jeff Dimmen over the Crunch goaltender for his 12th goal of the season at 13:00.
The Crunch drew within three goals of Norfolk at 7-4 as Rich Schofield sent a backhander over Tokarski and off the post at 14:40.
However, that would be all the scoring in the contest, as the Admirals skated away with the 7-4 victory.
Dustin Tokarski (23-11-0) turned aside 18 of 22 shots for his fourth straight win. Antero Niittymaki (3-6-0) allowed seven goals on 28 shots before being replaced in the third period. Iiro Tarkki stopped all five shots he faced in seven minutes of action and did not receive a decision.
Norfolk was 3-for-8 on the power play while Syracuse was 1-for-6.
Syracuse Crunch 4 at Norfolk Admirals 7 – Status: Final
Friday, February 17, 2012 – Norfolk Scope
Syracuse 0 2 2 – 4
Norfolk 1 2 4 – 7
1st Period-1, Norfolk, Kostka 8 (Johnson, Smith), 2:43 (SH). Penalties-Ashton Nor (tripping), 1:19; Gordon Syr (delay of game), 8:04; Panik Nor (interference), 8:30; Barberio Nor (hooking), 11:51; Smaby Syr (interference), 14:24; Sexton Syr (tripping), 18:37.
2nd Period-2, Syracuse, Holzapfel 9 (Jacques, Caputi), 5:07 (PP). 3, Syracuse, McMillan 8 (Sexton, Carle), 9:37. 4, Norfolk, Johnson 18 (Conacher, Fornataro), 16:11 (PP). 5, Norfolk, Picard 3 (Smith, Palat), 19:16 (PP). Penalties-Kostka Nor (tripping), 4:37; Maroon Syr (holding), 5:57; Clark Syr (tripping), 10:28; Caputi Syr (goaltender interference), 14:19; Fraser Syr (elbowing), 17:19.
3rd Period-6, Norfolk, Conacher 29 (Oberg, Barberio), 5:45. 7, Syracuse, Holzapfel 10 (Gordon), 5:58. 8, Norfolk, Angelidis 12 (Kostka), 9:57 (SH). 9, Norfolk, Smith 21 (Kostka, Oberg), 12:00 (PP). 10, Norfolk, Labrie 12 (Dimmen, Conacher), 13:00. 11, Syracuse, Schofield 7 (Palmieri), 14:40. Penalties-Johnson Nor (tripping), 8:32; Clark Syr (roughing), 10:27; Panik Nor (holding), 15:16.
Shots on Goal-Syracuse 6-7-9-22. Norfolk 4-15-14-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Syracuse 1 / 6; Norfolk 3 / 8.
Goalies-Syracuse, Niittymaki 3-6-0 (28 shots-21 saves); Tarkki 10-13-3 (5 shots-5 saves). Norfolk, Tokarski 23-11-0 (22 shots-18 saves).
Referees-Keith Kaval (40).
Linesmen-Tom George (61), Mark Hamlett (81).