In 1973, with the New York Mets mired in last place at the time, but still within striking distance in a very tight divisional race, the press asked, then Manager, Yogi Berra if the season was finished, he replied with the classic line, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
For the 2011-2012 Connecticut Whale, truer words have never been spoken.
Entering the third period trailing for the ninth time in twenty-two games, the Whale scored five, that’s right five, power play goals and came from behind in the third period for a win for the fifth time already this season and defeated the Springfield Falcons 6-3 in front of 3,523 at the MassMutual Center Saturday night.
The team was lifeless through the first two frames amassing only ten shots on starter Alan York (21 saves, 1-1-0), who was just sent to the AHL Falcons by their NHL parent club, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Whale had only two shots on goal through the first twenty minutes but had plenty of time to practice their penalty killing. The Whale were on the penalty kill for 6:26 as they took four consecutive penalties that included two five-on-three’s, one of 21 seconds and another of 1:14. They executed brilliantly as they only allowed four shots on Chad Johnson (39 saves, 8-3-2) and none on either of the five-on-three’s. Not being able to capitalize on this enormous opportunity referee Graham Skilliter gave them to put away their visitors this early won is easily a key reason why they would go on and lose this game.
The Falcons broke onto the scoreboard first when ex-Hartford Wolf-Pack captain, Dane Byers scored his first of two goals on the night as the Falcons finally found the back of the net on their fifth try on the power play. Their man-advantage was set up when Wade Redden was forced to take a tripping call on Matt Calvert as the Falcons left winger was getting past the veteran defenseman and would have had a clear breakaway if he hadn’t stopped him at 1:54 of the second period. Forty seconds later it was another ex-Wolf-Pack forward, Alexandre Giroux, who jumped into the play after coming out of the penalty box after serving his two minutes for a hooking call, who fired a shot from the high slot. The puck hit Johnson’s pads and dropped into the crease to his right. Byers, who’s made his living putting loose pucks like that into the back of the net, did so for the fifth time this season easily smacking it in.
1:26 later, the Falcons doubled their lead when Tim Spencer deflected a Wade MacLeod shot from the right circle just under Johnson’s pads for the 2-0 lead.
The Whale would break through 3:09 later as they gained momentum off a power play for a Theo Ruth boarding call and consummated that momentum twenty-three seconds later.
Redden retrieved a puck in the Whale zone and fired a magnificent cross ice breakout pass to Jonathan Audy-Marchessault streaking up the left wing. Audy-Marchessault out raced a Falcons defender to the puck and from nearly the Falcon goal-line put the puck on the stick of Ryan Bourque who blasted in from a low angle and beat York under the pads for his second of the season at 8:09.
More penalties including a scuffle between Andre Deveaux and ex-Wolf-Pack Ryan Garlock highlighted the second half of the second period and the Whale went to the locker room down 2-1.
The Falcons made it 3-1 2:17 into the third period when just after a ridiculous call against the Whale for apparently delaying the game by having too many men on the ice to start the period was assessed against them. Byers got his second of the game when a shot from Calvert got caught in his shirt and somehow just fell in past Johnson.
But that was when the tide turned as the Whale would score five unanswered, consecutive power play goals over a span of the final 12:16 of the game.
Deveaux got his first of two off a Pavel Valentenko rocket from the left point at 7:44 and then tied the game at 11:08 with a rebound backhander past York off an Audy-Marchessault shot and a Mats Zuccarello feed.
Audy-Marchessault would score what proved to be the game-winner at 14:22 when he followed up a Francois Bouchard shot that the rebound slid just past the stick of David Savard and right to the Whale forward who easily put it into the back of the net from the left side of the crease.
The Audy-Marchessault goal put the Whale at 3-6 on the power play and it would just get better.
After a Zuccarello breakaway was thwarted by a Nick Holden slashing call and a cheap shot to Deveaux’s face from Adam Mair, yes the very same Adam Mair who was suspended for the dirty hit on Zuccarello earlier in the season (and will likely get a suspension for this one too) made it a five-on-three for 1:40.
The Whale capitalized on the first one with a Newbury goal off a Zuccarello feed at 16:56 and then the coup-de-grace came when Aaron Voros put away the final goal with just 18.6 left in the contest.
The Whale were outshot 42-26 for the game.
With the win, the Whale moved into sole possession of first place in the conference through the quarter-pole of the season. They continue to find ways like this to win, and it’s likely that this season could easily go into the early summer.
The Whale go back on the ice Sunday afternoon when they are visited by ex-Wolf-Pack Corey Locke and the defending AHL Champion, Binghamton Senators at the XL Center.
Listen to the post game interviews for comments from Chad Johnson and head coach Ken Gernander below.
Fran Sypek has the Springfield story at MassLive.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* Danny Taylor, who the Whale beat the last time the two teams met was released from his PTO and replaced with Allen York who was just assigned to the Falcons by the parent Columbus Blue Jackets.
* The Whale have a remarkable 5-3-0-1 record when entering the third period trailing and 7-3-0-0 when outshot by their opponents. Conversely they are 7-1-1-1 when leading after two periods and 7-2-1-2 when outshooting their opponents.
* The Whale scored a team record-tying five power-play goals in 11 minutes, 57 seconds.
Zuccarello – Newbury – Deveaux
Voros – Audy-Marchessault – Bouchard
Bourque – Tessier – Thuresson
Grant – Owens – Tanski
Bell – Bickel
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Tim Erixon– Undisclosed Injury – Day-to-Day
Carl Hagelin – Recall, NY Rangers
John Mitchell – Recall, NY Rangers
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – J. Audy-Marchessault
2. SPR – D. Byers
3. CT – A. Deveaux
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Graham Skilliter (48)
Rich Patry (52)
Kevin Redding (16)
Back home for the Whale as they will go head to head with the Binghamton Senators. Bob Crawford will be on the air with the broadcast from the XL Center starting with the pre-game show at 2:50pm on WCCC.com.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 6 at Springfield Falcons 3 – Status: Final
Saturday, December 3, 2011 – MassMutual Center
Connecticut 0 1 5 – 6
Springfield 0 2 1 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Newbury Ct (hooking, unsportsmanlike conduct – disputing decision), 3:48; Nightingale Ct (hooking), 7:28; served by Voros Ct (bench minor – too many men), 8:14.
2nd Period-1, Springfield, Byers 5 (Giroux, Holden), 2:34 (PP). 2, Springfield, Spencer 1 (MacLeod, Garlock), 5:00. 3, Connecticut, Bourque 2 (Audy-Marchessault, Redden), 8:09. Penalties-Giroux Spr (hooking), 0:26; Redden Ct (tripping), 1:54; Ruth Spr (boarding), 5:36; Bickel Ct (tripping), 11:55; Atkinson Spr (hooking), 13:08; Deveaux Ct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:10; Garlock Spr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:10; served by Voros Ct (bench minor – delay of game), 20:00.
3rd Period-4, Springfield, Byers 6 (Calvert, Lebda), 2:17. 5, Connecticut, Deveaux 5 (Valentenko, Redden), 7:44 (PP). 6, Connecticut, Deveaux 6 (Audy-Marchessault, Zuccarello), 11:08 (PP). 7, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 8 (Bouchard, Valentenko), 14:22 (PP). 8, Connecticut, Newbury 7 (Zuccarello, Bell), 16:56 (PP). 9, Connecticut, Voros 2 (Tessier, Parlett), 19:41 (PP). Penalties-St. Pierre Spr (hooking), 6:01; Newbury Ct (roughing), 10:42; Giroux Spr (slashing, roughing), 10:42; Holden Spr (interference), 13:16; Holden Spr (slashing), 16:04; Mair Spr (major – interference, game misconduct – interference), 16:25.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 2-8-17-27. Springfield 10-19-13-42.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 5 / 9; Springfield 1 / 7.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 8-3-2 (42 shots-39 saves). Springfield, York 1-1-0 (27 shots-21 saves).
Referees-Graham Skilliter (48).
Linesmen-Rich Patry (52), Kevin Redding (16).