Norfolk moved within one victory of its first AHL championship when Mike Kostka's fluke goal at 9:09 of overtime gave the Admirals a 1-0 victory against the Toronto Marlies in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals on Thursday night.
Kostka broke up a goaltending battle between Norfolk's Dustin Tokarski and Toronto's Ben Scrivens when he got to the red line and dumped the puck in off the glass along the right wall. Scrivens went behind the net to play the puck, only to watch in horror as the shot hit a stanchion near the goal line and skittered sideways into the net for the only goal of the night.
It spoiled a brilliant effort by Scrivens, who made 30 saves and was the best player on the ice.
The Admirals, Tampa Bay's top affiliate and the AHL's Eastern Conference and regular-season champions, can complete the sweep and wrap up the title with a win against Toronto on Saturday afternoon. If the Western Conference-champion Marlies can stay alive, Game 5 is Sunday afternoon, also in Toronto.
The Marlies, outplayed while losing Games 1 and 2 at Norfolk, outshot the Admirals 11-6 in the opening period and had the better of the chances despite having to kill off three Norfolk power plays. The Admirals took control after that, outshooting Toronto 25-10 after the opening 20 minutes -- including 7-2 in overtime. But they were unable to beat Scrivens until Kostka's bizarre game-winner on their 31st shot of the game -- silencing the sellout crowd of 8,084 at Ricoh Coliseum.
Tokarski finished with 21 saves as the Admirals improved to 14-3 in the playoffs and 42-3 in their last 45 games since Feb. 5. Norfolk has won nine in a row and allowed just six goals since a 4-1 loss to Connecticut in Game 4 of the second round.