Facing the possibility of a 2-0 series deficit, the Syracuse Crunch blitzed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins early and held on late, winning Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals by a score of 3-2 at the Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter on Sunday night.
With the best-of-seven series even at one game apiece, the teams head down Interstate 81 for Game 3 in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday.
The Crunch did not allow a Penguins shot on goal until 6:20 remained in the first period but the game remained scoreless, with Syracuse’s best opportunity coming on a Brendan Mikkelson breakaway about nine minutes into the contest.
Syracuse finally broke through with 1:04 left in the first period as Dan Sexton found a rebound of a Brett Connolly shot in front and buried it past Brad Thiessen to give the Crunch a 1-0 lead. Shots after one period of play were 15-1 in favor of Syracuse.
Shots on goal at the time of Taormina’s goal were 23-1 for the Crunch, but Wilkes-Barre cut the deficit on the scoreboard in half when Joey Mormina scored four seconds into the Penguins’ first power play of the night, firing a long shot from the center point past Cedrick Desjardins at 8:13.
Wilkes-Barre got another opportunity with the man advantage midway through the second, but instead of potting the tying goal the Penguins allowed a shorthanded marker by Dmitry Korobov at 11:40. It was the Crunch’s fifth shorthanded goal of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs, and it gave Syracuse a 3-1 cushion.
Desjardins made his biggest save of the night with 3:35 left in the second period, denying Zach Sill from between the circles with a flashy glove save. The score remained 3-1 at the second intermission, with Syracuse holding a 29-12 lead in shots.
The Penguins closed to within 3-2 when Desjardins couldn’t corral a rebound and the puck came to Riley Holzapfel, who fired it into a yawning cage with 5:58 remaining.
But Syracuse held off Wilkes-Barre’s pressure the rest of the way and closed out the Game 2 victory, ending the Penguins’ five-game winning streak.
Desjardins (8-1) made 16 saves on the night to earn the win in net for the Crunch. Thiessen (6-2) stopped 34 of 37 shots for Wilkes-Barre.
NOTES: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was 1-for-5 on the power play in Game 2; Syracuse was 1-for-3… Mormina’s goal was his second in 63 career Calder Cup Playoff games… Ondrej Palat assisted on Korobov’s shorthanded goal, his team-leading 16th playoff point… The Crunch played the final half of the third period without AHL MVP Tyler Johnson after an open-ice collision with Penguins forward Chad Kolarik.