Great eight for McElhinney, Falcons

( — The Springfield Falcons (34-14-4-3) compiled eight points in three days, finishing off their perfect weekend on Sunday afternoon at the MassMutual Center with a 2-0 victory over the Worcester Sharks (26-23-1-5) as goaltender Curtis McElhinney posted his team-record eighth shutout of the 2012-13 season.

Springfield’s eight standings points came in less than 48 hours, beginning with a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout win over Adirondack on Friday in the completion of their suspended Feb. 17 game. The Falcons then beat the Phantoms, 7-2, in Friday’s regularly-scheduled game, and followed that with a 2-1 shootout win over Providence on Saturday.

McElhinney equaled Manny Legace for the most shutouts in a Falcons career, collecting his eighth in only his 36th appearance with Springfield. The two-time AHL All-Star, who already owned the Falcons record for shutouts in a season, matched Marcel Paille for the most perfect outings in one season in the 70-year history of AHL hockey in Springfield. Paille notched eight shutouts with the Springfield Indians in 1960-61.

The Falcons took a 1-0 lead at 16:36 of the first period, capitalizing on quick puck movement around the net. Sean Collins guided a pass to the right circle for Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, whose shot was deflected by Worcester netminder Harri Sateri right to Ryan Russell in the slot. Russell spotted the rebound and chipped the puck by Sateri’s stick for the eventual game-winner.

The Falcons netted insurance in the opening stage of the second period. Michael Chaput snatched a puck at the Worcester blue line and skated into the zone, with Tomas Kubalik leading him through the slot toward Sateri. Chaput flicked the puck on Sateri with a backhand, and Kubalik pushed the rebound on the doorstep into the net at 4:23, upping Springfield’s advantage to 2-0.

Already with the benefit of a two-goal cushion, McElhinney received additional aid later in the second after making a stop on a shot by Tommy Grant. Matt Pelech had a look on the rebound at an open net from the right circle, but Ryan Craig slid in front of the shot and deflected the puck to the corner boards.

Pelech had another bid in the third period to crack McElhinney, taking a pass from Curt Gogol off a Springfield turnover. The goaltender thrusted his left pad out, stopping Pelech’s bid and preserving the shutout.

McElhinney (23-10-2) accumulated 30 saves in the game, including 13 in the final stanza. Sateri (11-12-2) stopped 17 of the Falcons’ 19 tries.

Springfield overcame a seven-point gap entering the weekend to tie Syracuse atop the Eastern Conference standings by the end of the day Sunday.

The Falcons hold a 14-point advantage for first place in the Northeast Division over Connecticut with three games in hand following the conclusion of the AHL’s 21st week of play.

For Worcester’s Roy Sommer, Sunday’s game was his 1,171st as an AHL head coach, tying Fred "Bun" Cook for second place overall; Frank Mathers (1,256 games) is the all-time league leader… The Falcons are 20 games over .500 for the first time since they beat the Portland Pirates on Mar. 28, 1998 to improve to 42-22-9. Springfield’s record for games above .500 is 21, set when it defeated the Rochester Americans on Apr. 13, 1996 to claim a record of 42-21-15… The Falcons have won five straight home games, equaling a 2012-13 team high… Worcester was 0-for-5 on the power play, and the Falcons stopped nine of 10 shorthanded situations on the weekend… Springfield let in only three goals in the three-plus contests from Friday through Sunday… The Falcons are now 12-2-0-0 in Sunday games… Legace garnered eight shutouts in 153 outings with the Falcons… The Falcons’ eight-point weekend matches a feat also accomplished by the Peoria Rivermen from Dec. 2-4, 2005.