NORFOLK, Va. - Eddie Pasquale had stood tall through 11 games in the St. John's IceCaps' quest for the Calder Cup, but that came undone when he ran into the Norfolk Admirals' explosive offence.
Michel Ouellet, Mike Kostka and Jean-Philippe Cote beat Pasquale in the second period to blow open a close game, and the Admirals beat the IceCaps 6-1 Thursday in the opener of the American Hockey League Eastern Conference final.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday at Norfolk.
Cote's goal went in off Pasquale's pads and finished the goalie, who was pulled in favour of veteran David Aebischer at 13:42 of the second period.
Aebischer gave up goals by Ondrej Palat and Keith Aulie in relief.
"I don't think he struggled all that much," St. John's coach Keith McCambridge said of Pasquale, while not revealing whether he would play Saturday at Norfolk. "You don't want to leave a guy in there all that much when you've got another guy behind him."
Veteran IceCaps forward Garth Murray said there was plenty of blame to go around for the IceCaps' lopsided loss.
"I know Eddie probably had a couple of shots that he'd like to have back ... we all have to play better in front of him," Murray said.
Pasquale wasn't helped by the fact the Admirals had a steady stream traffic to the net all night.
"No goalie can stop shots he doesn't see," Norfolk coach Jon Cooper said.
After struggling through a 7-for-60 drought on the power play through two playoff series, Norfolk got man-advantage goals from Kostka in the opening period and Ouellet early in the second to take a 2-0 lead.
Kostka followed with his second goal of the game at 11:04 of the second and Cote scored only 2:38 later make it 4-0 Norfolk.
To that point, St. John's had only two shots in the second period.
"I didn't know that," said Cooper of the two-shot statistic. "I'll tell you what our defence did do well tonight, aside from (goalie Dustin Tokarski) playing outstanding. The boys were blocking shots, and at this time of year, you need to block shots to win games."
The IceCaps got 30 shots through, and Tokarski rejected 29 of them in winning for the fifth time in seven playoff tries.
"They're blocking shots that we're trying to get," Murray said. "We have to block more shots on our side. They're getting shots through."
Zach Redmond scored on a power play for St. John's.
Cote celebrated his first playoff goal in 33 games.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "I'm normally blocking shots. When you score a goal, you make the best of it."
But he warned of too much celebration with much more of the series to play.
"It doesn't mean a lot," he said of winning 6-1. "There's more to go. Whether it's 3-2 or 10-1 doesn't matter. We have to focus on the next game."
Cooper cautioned the IceCaps have shown resiliency against Norfolk in the regular season.
"I think we beat them up there 6-2," he said. "The next night they came back on us 3-1. That's a good team. They didn't get here because they're lucky."
Added McCambridge: "We usually bounce back well."