(CP) — It’s the toughest loss of Dallas Eakins’ coaching career.
Mike Kostka scored a fluke goal in overtime as the Norfolk Admirals defeated the Toronto Marlies 1-0 in American Hockey League championship final action on Thursday.
Kostka wristed a shot from centre on a dump-in 9:09 into overtime that deflected off a stanchion along the glass into the empty Marlies net.
The Admirals now lead the series 3-0 after taking Games 1 and 2 last week in Norfolk, Va.
"I would rather someone take a pair of steel-toed boots and hit me in a delicate region than to lose a hockey game like that," Eakins said. "That is a tough way to lose in the playoffs — off a stanchion – after our boys battled so hard.
"I can never recall in any kind of league final a puck going in like that."
It was such a fluke goal that many of the players and coaches didn’t see it go in.
"I was about to vent on something to (assistant coach) Steve Thomas," said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. "I heard our fans and then I saw Kostka backing up and it was just disbelief.
"I’m sick to my stomach for Scrivens. That was a tough break for the kid. But I’d rather obviously go in our favour instead of theirs. In saying that…I thought we actually earned it."
Scrivens went out behind the goal to play the puck, lost it along the glass and only picked it up just as it went in the net.
"Stuff happens — that’s the only explanation," he said. "It sucks to lose a game like that. But that’s a one in a million thing. If you watch the replay, the puck was in almost before it hit that stanchion.
"I was just hoping it wouldn’t go in, but it looked like it even curled around the post to go in."
The goal wasn’t without controversy, however.
"It’s a real interesting one for the referees, too," Eakins said. "The puck comes out (of the zone). Then it’s rimmed in and there’s a guy that’s offside about eight to 10 feet. The puck hits the stanchion, but now he’s onside and the puck goes in your net.
"It’s a fairly grey area. It’s something I’ve never seen and I’m sure the referees have never seen, either."
Dustin Tokarski stopped 21 shots for his third shutout and 11th win of the post-season.
Scrivens made 30 saves in defeat.
After the first period, when Toronto outshot Norfolk 11-6, the Admirals took control of the game and outshot the Marlies 25-10 the rest of the way.
"That first period, we did lay an egg," said Norfolk centre Cory Conacher. "We knew what we were in for and we were lucky to get out of that period 0-0."
The Admirals thought they’d opened the scoring late in the second period. Tyler Johnson ripped a slapshot from the top of left circle and it appeared to beat Scrivens just inside the post, but the referee waved the goal off immediately.
"It looked in to us," Cooper said. "I thought it was in, ‘Stumpy’ (Tampa Bay Lightning player development consultant Steve Thomas) thought it was in. But in saying that, in the one video feed we had, it didn’t appear to go in. I was shocked."
Toronto went 0-for-6 on the power play is now 1-for-21 in the series.
"They’re killing penalties as well as we are right now," Eakins said. "It’s tough for both teams to score on the power play right now."
Toronto will try to stave off elimination in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon, while Norfolk has a chance to win its first ever Calder Cup.
"Everyone on this team deserves everything we’re getting," Conacher said. "We’ve worked so hard for this all year…But it’s not over yet."
Notes: Mike Zigomanis was back in the lineup after missing four games to injury, replacing Jay Rosehill.…Nazem Kadri missed his fifth straight game to injury… The game marked the first professional hockey game ever played in Toronto in June.…Announced attendance was 8,084.