Richard Panik found the perfect way to dull the pain.
Hit in the face by a teammate’s shot during the third period, Panik returned to the ice and scored the series-clinching goal on his first shift back, sending the Norfolk Admirals into the Eastern Conference Finals with a 2-1 overtime win over the Connecticut Whale at Scope on Friday night.
Panik’s breakaway goal at 13:01 of overtime have the Admirals a four-games-to-two victory in the series, their first triumph ever in an AHL best-of-seven set.
Cameron Talbot was the star of the game on the Whale side, making 44 saves on the night while his club was outshot 34-7 from the start of the third period until the end of the contest.
Connecticut clung to their 1-0 advantage until Tyler Johnson buried a loose puck past Talbot with 9:08 remaining in regulation.
Norfolk will face the winner of Saturday’s Game 7 between St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the Eastern Conference Finals, beginning Thursday, May 17, at Scope.
Eastern Conference Semifinals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
1-Norfolk Admirals vs. 6-Connecticut Whale
Game 1 – Wed., May 2 – Connecticut 3, NORFOLK 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Fri., May 4 – NORFOLK 4, Connecticut 1
Game 3 – Sun., May 6 – Norfolk 4, CONNECTICUT 3
Game 4 – Mon., May 7 – CONNECTICUT 4, Norfolk 1
Game 5 – Wed., May 9 – Norfolk 4, CONNECTICUT 0 (at Bridgeport)
Game 6 – Fri., May 11 – NORFOLK 2, Connecticut 1 (OT)