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Johnson’s hat trick puts Crunch in control

Game 2

Tyler Johnson‘s hat trick, part of a four-point night for the reigning American Hockey League MVP, led Syracuse to a 5-3 victory over Springfield at the MassMutual Center on Saturday night and a 2-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

After winning twice on the road, the Crunch head home for Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5.

Johnson, who recorded the first playoff hat trick in the Crunch’s 19-year history, has 13 points in five games this postseason and has totaled 11-9-20 in eight games since returning to Syracuse after a month-long NHL stay with Tampa Bay.

Coming off a 5-2 win in Game 1 on Friday night, Syracuse scored on its first two shots of Saturday’s game, in a span of 13 seconds.

First, Richard Panik redirected a feed from Ondrej Palat past Curtis McElhinney on a power play just 1:02 into the game to give the Crunch a 1-0 lead.

Off the ensuing center-ice faceoff, J.T. Brown knocked down a Springfield dump-in attempt, skated up the left wing and sent the puck on net, where it deflected off Mike Angelidis and in to make it 2-0.

Springfield got on the board at 14:40 of the first period when Dalton Prout‘s shot from the center point pinballed through traffic and Ryan Russell slid it through the pads of Cedrick Desjardins.

Syracuse reclaimed a two-goal lead at the 8:31 mark of the second period when Johnson converted during an extended 5-on-3 power play for the Crunch.

Johnson then got his second goal of the night at 14:05 while shorthanded, snapping a shot past McElhinney from the right circle.

Springfield answered 24 seconds later on a goal credited to Trent Vogelhuber as a long Falcons shot deflected over the shoulder of Desjardins and across the line before he could glove it.

Johnson’s third goal of the night was also the third power-play score for Syracuse as he banged home a shot at 6:47 of the third period.

Boone Jenner‘s second playoff goal at 8:04 brought the Falcons back to within 5-3, but that was as close as they got.

Desjardins made 28 saves for the Crunch, improving his playoff record to 5-0.

McElhinney stopped 20 of 25 shots and fell to 3-3.