Andreas Thuresson’s goal at 2:53 of overtime gave the Connecticut Whale a 3-2 win over the Norfolk Admirals Wednesday night at Scope Arena, in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the two teams.
The victory kept the Whale perfect in the postseason, as Connecticut now sports a 4-0 record in 2012 playoff games.
Thuresson’s winner, his first career pro playoff OT goal, was a long slapshot from the left-wing side that Admiral goaltender Dustin Tokarski stopped with his stick. The puck went off of the stick and up in the air, though, and found its way over Tokarski’s left shoulder before trickling over the goal line.
“Owie (Jordan Owens) was driving good to the net,” Thuresson said about the game-winning play, “and I just shot it through his legs and through the defenseman’s legs, hopefully for a rebound for him or for Bourqueie (Ryan Bourque) driving the net, and it ended up going in. That’s what happens in playoffs.”
The overtime win was the second straight for the Whale, who completed a three-game, first-round sweep of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with a 4-3 extra-time victory April 22 at the XL Center.
Cam Talbot kept his personal playoff record perfect with 31 saves for the Whale, and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Marek Hrivik also scored for Connecticut. Norfolk got goals from Ondrej Palat and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and Tokarski made 26 saves.
The series got off to an entertaining start in the first period, which featured four goals and numerous physical battles.
Norfolk’s Palat started the scoring at 5:43, with his first career North American pro postseason goal. A shot by Brandon Segal was partially blocked, but got through to Talbot, who inadvertently kicked it right to Palat, allowing him easily to bury it from the left side of the slot.
The Whale then responded with two goals in 12 seconds, starting with the second of the postseason for Audy-Marchessault at 8:18. Tim Erixon kept the puck in the offensive zone near the left-wing boards and threaded a pass to an unguarded Audy-Marchessault to the right of Tokarski. Tokarski stopped Audy-Marchessault’s first bid, but the Whale rookie was able to lift his own rebound into the net.
The Whale then took their first lead on the very next shift, with Casey Wellman finding Hrivik all alone in front of Tokarski, with a pass from the right boards. Hrivik put home his fifth goal of the postseason, and fifth in the last three games, and rookie J.T. Miller nabbed his first pro point with the secondary assist.
The two goals in 12 seconds was one second short of the franchise record for two fastest playoff goals.
Norfolk was able to draw back even, though, with 3:04 left in the period, as Labrie netted his second of the playoffs. Labrie’s pass went off of teammate Alex Killorn’s skate right back to Labrie, and he beat Talbot with a high shot.
After that four-goal period, the second frame was scoreless, despite Norfolk having three power plays and the Whale four, including a two-man advantage of 1:03.
The best chance of the period for either team came with Erixon serving a holding minor and only 1.6 seconds left. The puck came to the left-handed-shooting Killorn along the goal line to Talbot’s left and Killorn snapped a hard, low shot on net. Not only did Talbot stop the shot with his left skate, but also was able to hold the puck underneath his boot to stop the play.
The Whale, outshot 24-15 through the first two periods, had a 12-9 advantage in that department in the third frame, but could not victimize Tokarski prior to Thuresson’s overtime strike.
Game Two of the best-of-seven series is Friday night at Scope (7:30 ET, AHL Live).