- Syracuse has a 2-0 series lead over Portland in the best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
- AHL MVP Tyler Johnson has two goals and three assists to lead the Crunch in two playoff games.
- Needing one win to advance, the Crunch visit the Pirates for Game 3 Thursday and a potential Game 4 Friday.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
(3) Syracuse Crunch vs. (6) Portland Pirates - Syr 2, Por 0 - Best of five
Game 1 - Sat., Apr. 27 - Portland at Syracuse - W, 4-3 OT
Game 2 - Sun., Apr. 28 - Portland at Syracuse - W, 4-2
Game 3 - Thurs., May 2 - Syracuse at Portland - 7:00 p.m.
*Game 4 - Fri., May 3 - Syracuse at Portland - 7:00 p.m.
*Game 5 - Sun., May 5 - Portland at Syracuse - 7:30 p.m.
Syracuse aims for series sweep Thursday in Portland
Syracuse visits Portland for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quaterfinal Thursday at the Cumberland County Civic Center at 7 p.m. The Crunch can clinch the best-of-five series with a win, but if necessary, the Pirates would host the Crunch again on Friday. Syracuse has a 2-0 series lead after victories at home Saturday and Sunday.
The Pirates had AHL's fifth-best home record during the regular season, 24-11-2-1, while Syracuse was 24-10-2-2 on the road, best in the Eastern Conference. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have five points each for Syracuse, tied for the Calder Cup Playoffs' scoring lead. Cedrick Desjardins is 2-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average in two games.
Time Warner Cable Sports Channel (Ch. 19, HD 813) will carry live broadcasts of the Crunch games at Portland. The Score 1260 AM begins radio coverage at 6:45 p.m. for all games.
Game 1: Panik attack lifts Syracuse in overtime, 4-3
In his first Crunch game since Mar. 20, Richard Panik contributed an assist and his seventh game-winning goal as Syracuse took a 1-0 series lead over Portland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quaterfinal Saturday at the War Memorial. Panik's linemates Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat each posted three points and the line contributed eight of the 12 team points. First-period markers from Portland's Darian Dziurzynski and David Rundblad forced the Crunch to fight back from a two-goal deficit. Even when Tyler Johnson got Syracuse on the board with a power-play tally in the second, Chris Brown reaserted the two-goal edge for Portland. Mark Barberio got the Crunch within 3-2 on another power-play goal from Palat and Johnson, and Dan Sexton tied the game on a redirection of an Andrej Sustr high-slot drive. Fifteen of Portland's 40 penalty minutes were charged in overtime when Boris Valabik elbowed Brett Connolly behind the Portland net, resulting in a major and game misconduct. The ensuing power play afforded Syracuse with a variety of chances, including one apparent goal from Palat called off because the whistle had blown beforehand. But Palat collected his third point of the night anyhow, dishing the puck to the side of the crease for a charging Panik who skated across the blue ice and lifted the puck over Chad Johnson for the winning score. Syracuse was 3-for-11 on the power play while holding the Pirates to 1-for-7. Saturday's power play performance was the most productive since a 4-for-10 effort Feb. 13 at Albany. Cedrick Desjardins made 28 saves.
Game 2: Palat helps Crunch secure early lead, 2-0 series lead
Ondrej Palat followed up his three-assist performance in Game 1 with a one-goal, one-assist effort in Game 2 Sunday, a 4-2 victory for Syracuse at the War Memorial. An early exchange of penalties led to four-on-four hockey and Palat took the puck from a side-wall skirmish and fired a hard-angle shot from the left circle past Pirates goalie Chad Johnson and inside the long post. Tyler Johnson and Matt Taormina assisted on the opening score, the 45th time Syracuse has scored a game's first goal. A minute and eight seconds later, J.T. Brown lifted the Crunch to a 2-0 lead after Mike Angelidis and J.T. Wyman had close-range chances blocked. Palat sprung Johnson for a shorthanded breakaway in the second period's opening minute, and Johnson's rising shot popped Chad Johnson's water bottle off the net for a 3-0 Syracuse lead. Brett Connolly made it 4-0 late in the second after crisp end-to-end passing from Mark Barberio, Philip-Michael Devos and Dan Sexton. Multiple fights broke out moments later, and Andy Miele and Richard Panik were assessed game misconducts for engaging in a secondary altercation. Brandon Gormley got Portland on the board at 16:50 and Nick Johnson pulled the visitors within one midway through the third. The Crunch completed an 8-for-8 night on the penalty kill in the game's final moments with Portland mounting a six-on-four attack with the goalie pulled. The Crunch outshot the Pirates, 34-20.
- The Crunch have stopped 14 of 15 Portland power plays, and the 8-for-8 penalty kill effort Sunday was the most prolific shorthanded performance since goign 8-for-8 Dec. 14 at Adirondack, a 3-0 Syracus win. Only three times since then have the Crunch been forced to kill eight or more penalties.
- Syracuse's Tyler Johnson-Ondrej Palat-Richard Panik line has combined 12 of the 23 individial point collected in Round 1, 8-of-12 in Game 1 and 4-of-11 in Game 2. Tyler Johnson has two goals and three assists in two games, Ondrej Palat has a goal and four assists and Richard Panik has one goal and one assist. The trio provided 158 of Syracuse’s 648 regular season points (24%).
- Tyler Johnson led the Crunch with 19 multi-point games in the regular season and Ondrej Palat had 14. Both had multi-point efforts in Games 1 and 2. Johnson has at least one goal in five games since returning to Syracuse, totaling 12 points (7g, 5a). He has a seven game goal-scoring streak dating back to Mar. 8, prior to his first NHL call up. Onrej Palat has 13 points (3g, 10a) in nine games since returning from Tampa Bay.
- The 2-0 series lead for Syracuse over Portland is the franchise's first since 2008 when the Crunch led the Toronto 2-0, but the Marlies came back to win the series in seven games. Practice Schedule (subject to change):