Midway through the game it looked like everything was heading in the right direction for the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were up 2-0 in Game Five against the Laval Rocket courtesy of goals from Anthony Richard (short handed) and Ryan Jones. All they had to do was hold the rest of the way and they would be through to the next round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Richie with the shortie!! pic.twitter.com/HTSR93eSPK— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 17, 2022
Ryan Jones (Alex Barre-Boulet, Gabriel Dumont)
The puck goes off Jonesy and past Primeau! pic.twitter.com/KGvNgQ6Mqw— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 18, 2022
By the time the final whistle sounded jubilation had turned to despair as Gabriel Bourque’s shot in overtime somehow eluded Max Lagace to give the Rocket a 3-2 (OT) win. Alex Belzile had pulled the Rocket within one in the second with a power play goal, but it looked like the Crunch were going to hang on until old friend Cedric Paquette tied things up with just 39 seconds left in the game.
Both goaltenders were outstanding as Lagace stopped 33 of 36 and Cayden Primeau stopped 32 of 34.
The loss brings a close-fought series to a close. Each one of the five games were close (Syracuse’s 3-0 Game 4 win the only one that was a reasonably comfortable victory) and could have gone either way.
It also caps a roller coaster of a season for Syracuse. They stumbled out of the gate, dealt with a long COVID-related pause in December, seemed out of the playoffs in early February, and then went on an absolute tear at the end to earn the number two seed in the North. Led by Lagace’s outstanding play, the mix of veterans and rookies really gelled over the last three months and were one of the best teams in the league.
We’ll have more next week in the final Crunch Wrap of the season, but for now, let’s just say - Congratulations, Syracuse!
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning win, 4-1 [Raw Charge]
It was a bit of a sloppy start, but the Lightning finished strong and potted three power play goals. That’s not too shabby for a road playoff game. Build on the momentum from the third period and head back to Tampa up 2-0.
Adjusted line-up comes through [Tampa Bay Times]
Not only were they without Brayden Point, they lost Erik Cernak midway through the game. Oh, and Cal Foote missed a large portion of the second period too. This team rolled through the line-up changes and pulled out the win.
Evgeni Malkin wants to stay in Pittsburgh [Pensburgh]
It’s hard to picture in something other than the black and gold (and sometimes power blue) of the Penguins, but the future hall of famer is an unrestricted free agent this summer and so far it doesn’t sound like negotiations are going well. To his credit, he wants to stay with Pittsburgh, but it may not be feasible for either side.
Barry Trotz is a hot commodity this offseason [Broad Street Hockey]
Not only is reportedly in the running for the Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights coaching gigs, it looks like he might also be a frontrunner for the vacant Philadelphia Flyers job (which would also give him the chance to go against the Islanders four times a year).
For the 11th straight season, Patrice Bergeron is one of the finalists for the Selke Trophy along with Aleksander Barkov and Elias Lindholm. There is no doubt Bergeron wins, right?
Last Night’s Other Game:
How this game went to overtime is a mystery. After St. Louis went up early, Colorado absolutely dominated the game (78% of scoring chances, 76.19% of high-danger chances, 73.08 xGF%). Jordan Binnington kept it close until Josh Manson fired one past him in overtime.
Can Igor Shesterkin keep the Rangers close enough for their opportunistic offense to win the game? It’ll be tough against the Hurricanes who are winning with their back-up netminder.
The Calgary Flames haven’t been getting a lot of press, but they are the second best team left in the Western Conference. The Edmonton Oilers have the best player in the league, and one of the top five players in the league. They also have Mike Smith in net. It’s all about balance.