In the playoffs, whether it's in the National Hockey League or the American Hockey League, games, and often times series are decided by the slightest of margins.
After all, when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup last season, three of their four series were decided in a Game 7. Meanwhile, four opening-round series in this year's Calder Cup Playoffs were clinched with overtime-winning goals.
In the Admirals' 4-3 win over the Whale last night, Connecticut actually outplayed Norfolk for extended periods of time early in the game. However, over the course of the 60-minute game, an absolutely dominant seven-minute stretch by the Admirals in the second period resulted in three Norfolk goals and changed the game's outcome in favor of the visitors.
"Once we tied it up, I thought we built up a lot of momentum last night," said Admirals assistant coach Mike Flanagan. "We have to get off to a better start and try not to fall behind tonight. If we can continue our momentum from the second period yesterday, we'll be in good shape tonight."
And what a difference those seven minutes of Game 3 have made in the series. Instead of trailing in the series and having its back against the wall on Monday night, Norfolk has a chance to grow its series lead to 3-1 in in Game 4 and take a stranglehold on its Eastern Conference Semifinals series.
"The first 10 minutes is going to be huge," added Smith. "We didn't get off to the type of start we wanted last night and haven't been getting off to the starts we've wanted in the last few games. I feel like if we can just get ahead early tonight, that we have the team to be able to hold them off."
The event in Sunday's game that set up the Admirals' late second-period surge was when Norfolk's forwards began executing its coaches' often-told message of putting much more traffic in front of Whale goalie Cam Talbot.
"We need to keep getting net-front traffic," said Flanagan. "We need to establish our forecheck and be relentless. We still passed up a few too many shooting opportunities last night and have to concentrate on getting more pucks to the net tonight. When you shoot the puck, shoot the puck and shoot the puck; you'd be surprised what can happen."
Alexandre Picard and the Admirals look to take a 3-1 series lead tonight.
But while the Admirals have taken the lead in the series, the Whale are far from a defeated opponent, as a Connecticut win in Game 4 would knot the teams' series at two wins apiece and set up a crucial Game 5 on Wednesday in Connecticut. And, as mentioned, the Whale did hold a territorial advantage for large portions of Game 3, which has Connecticut believing that all it has to do to reverse last night's outcome is to make a few minor tweaks to its game.
"We had that little hiccup in the second period," said Whale assistant coach J.J. Daigneault. "Their PP also hurt us. They finished second on the PP during the season behind Hershey, so we need to be a little more disciplined. I think our PK has a done a good job of limiting their chances for the most part, but they still got one on us last night. We have to tighten up tonight because they're a talented team."
However, while the Admirals' explosive offense was what reversed Norfolk's fortunes on Sunday, the performance of the team's goaltender can't be ignored either. Since having his 15-game winning streak snapped with a Game 1 loss to the Whale, Dustin Tokarski has won each of his last two starts and made 54 saves on 58 shots.
Admirals Forward Lines
Cory Conacher-Trevor Smith-Brandon Segal
Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Richard Panik
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Alexandre Picard-Alex Killorn
Michel Ouellet-Mike Angelidis
Extras: Philip-Michael Devos, Jon Kalinski, Alex Hutchings
Injured: Eric Neilson
Admirals Defensive Pairs
Scott Jackson-Radko Gudas
Evan Oberg-Mark Barberio
Jean-Philippe Cote-Mike Kostka
Extras: Jeff Dimmen
Injured: Richard Petiot