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Falcons face 2-0 deficit as series shifts to Syracuse

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

For the second consecutive game, a slow start doomed the Springfield Falcons and tonight's loss puts them in a tough spot after a pair of home games to open the series.

Brad Larsen said Friday night's Game 1 was littered with poor decision-making on his team's part and that a lot of his players were guilty of standing around and not getting engaged in the game. He expected a much different effort in Game 2, one that could split two games at the MassMutual Center and give them something to feel good about as the series shifts to War Memorial Arena in Syracuse next week.

A four-goal first period from the Crunch in Game 1 was - in many ways - a worst-case scenario in terms of Springfield opening up the series on home ice on the right note, but the start of Game 2 was a back-breaker.

Tyler Johnson, the AHL's regular season MVP coming off a multi-point effort in Game 1, paced Syracuse with a hat trick in Game 2 and was a complete difference-maker for the visitors, who took back home ice with a weekend sweep and have control of the conference semifinal series with the Falcons.

Richard Panik and Mike Angelidis scored two goals just 13 seconds apart to give the Crunch a 2-0 lead just 75 seconds into the game, taking the home crowd out of the game and helping Syracuse settle into its possession game. For the second straight night, the Falcons were unable to get out to a good start in their home rink and it ended up costing them dearly; they couldn't sustain enough offense to get back into Game 2 and didn't get much going on special teams when given the opportunity.

Each time the Falcons closed to within a goal, it seemed like Johnson was the guy who scored the big goal to widen the margin. His first tally increased Syracuse's lead to 3-1 after Springfield made it a 2-1 game, and his hat trick goal at 6:47 of the third period squashed any notion of a Falcons comeback, bumping the Crunch lead to 5-2.

Special teams were a huge storyline, with Syracuse scoring three times in eight power play chances (including a second period 5-on-3) and the Falcons coming up empty in seven power plays. Brad Larsen said it was his club's undoing, at one point handing the Crunch five consecutive power plays.

"We got undisciplined, and we've talked about it," Larsen said. "(Syracuse) is too skilled, too skilled to be giving them that many power plays. I thought we were in a great position and then we took five penalties in a row...which was unfortunate because we were playing hard, we were very invested in that game.

"They scored three power play goals and we got none. It's pretty obvious what's happening out there: their top guys are playing really well and they're dangerous right now."

Some post-game notes:

- Johnson's shorthanded goal was the first against the Falcons in the playoffs since Bill Lindsay scored one for Hamilton versus Springfield on Apr. 17, 2003.

- After allowing goals on each of the first two shots of the game, McElhinney (3-3) set aside 20 of the final 23 attempts. Desjardins (5-0) made 28 saves on 31 tries.

- If necessary, Syracuse will host Game 5 on Saturday, May 18. Springfield would be at home for Games 6 and 7 on Tuesday, May 21 and Wednesday, May 22 should the series reach those points.

- The Falcons have lost back-to-back games for the first time since undergoing defeats on Apr. 2 (Albany) and Apr. 5 (Connecticut).

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