There’s a saying in hockey that all good things have to come to an end.
That ending came on Saturday for the Norfolk Admirals, who lost for the first time in more than two months by allowing three third-period goals in a 5-2 loss to the Manchester Monarchs.
Manchester’s win evens the teams’ best-of-five series at one win apiece, as the series shifts to New Hampshire next week.
Norfolk had combined to win a pro-hockey record 29 straight regular-season and playoff games prior to Saturday’s loss in Game 2, besting the longest prior winning streak in 108 years of pro-hockey history (18) by an 11-game margin.
“We were naïve if we thought this streak was going to last forever,” said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. “Tonight was the end of a winning streak that none of us may ever see again in our lifetimes. Tonight, I’m going to absorb the magnitude of what we accomplished and tomorrow I’m going to wake up mad and start figuring out how we’re going to win the next game”
Alexandre Picard, Norfolk’s leading playoff scorer through two games with four points (3g, 1a), scored two second-period goals to erase a 2-0 Manchester lead. However, Norfolk didn’t have an answer when Robert Czarnik, Linden Vey and Andy Andreoff scored in the third period to put the Monarchs back on top to stay.
“I could hear a pin drop when that (Czarnik’s) goal went in,” said Cooper. “After coming back the first time, we had so much energy going. We had plenty of time to come back again, but I felt like we lost all our energy when they went ahead the second time.”
Although the Admirals didn’t give up a power-play goal and have killed 14 straight penalties in the series, Cooper was also quick to attribute his team’s ended winning streak to costly penalties.
“It felt like we had more guys in the penalty box tonight than we did on our own bench,” said Cooper. “We’re not going to win hockey games against a good team like Manchester if we don’t find a way to stay out of the box.”
Saturday’s game wasn’t all bad for the Admirals, who received the first two professional playoff points of Alex Killorn, who used feisty forechecks to set up both of Picard’s second-period goals.
“We were really good in the second period,” said Cooper. “As good as we were, (Martin) Jones was better. We had 22 shots in that period and he was strong for them to stop us from going ahead.”
Martin Jones, a 2011 AHL All-Star, stopped 37 of 39 shots to get the win in goal for the Monarchs. He has now stopped 56 of 58 shots in the series since relieving Jeff Zatkoff midway through Game 1.
Despite the Admirals finishing the regular season with an AHL-best 113 points, a scheduling conflict in their home arena will necessitate all three possible remaining games in the series to be played at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
Besides Norfolk being obligated to win two of the next three games on the road to take the series, another unfolding development which will affect how the series turns will be the health of Norfolk’s Tyler Johnson
and Radko Gudas
Johnson, a high-scoring center who was named to the AHL’s 2012 All-Rookie Team, left Game 1 with an injury and missed the game on Saturday.
Gudas, a bruising defenseman, has missed both games in the series due to the flu.
“It’s the playoffs, “said Cooper. “Everybody is day-to-day. Let’s leave it at that.”
One other storyline will be who will start in goal for the Admirals in Game 3 on Wednesday night. Jaroslav Janus
has started Norfolk’s first two playoff games and finished the regular season on a 15-game winning streak. Dustin Tokarski, the AHL’s regular-season wins leader, has yet to see action in the series.
“I’ve been extremely happy with Janus’ performance,” added Cooper. “But we broke down tonight. We had major breakdowns and it doesn’t really matter who is in goal when you break down like we did. I haven’t decided who will start the next game yet.”