If there is one area of the ice that the Syracuse Crunch have looked the most like the dominant, winning-streak, Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals from a season ago, it's on special teams.
The Crunch were nearly perfect on the power play and penalty kill again on Friday night in Albany, as the Crunch scored on 2 of their 4 man advantage opportunities and killed all 5 Albany power plays.
After starting goaltender Dustin Tokarksi gave up yet another soft goal early in a game — this one from a wrister from an impossible angle along the goal line — the Crunch dug in and let their special teams go to work.
However late in the first the Crunch get caught standing still a bit off an offensive zone draw. A 2-on-1 rush with only forward Richard Panik back to defend led to an easy 2-1 lead for the Devils as Mattias Tedenby tapped the puck in for an easy goal.
In the second period, the Crunch were again able to use the speed advantage of the Conacher line to draw a penalty and go to work on the power play.
Similar to the goal scored by Johnson in the first, the Crunch set up a backdoor play not unlike the one used by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The puck starts off on the sideboards and then moves down low to the goal line, a position occupied most often in Tampa by Ryan Malone. For Syracuse, it was rookie Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov held for a moment to draw in goaltender Jeff Frazee, then fired a pass through the slot to a waiting JT Brown, a right-handed shot on the left circle who did his best Steven Stamkos impression in scoring the power play goal from that spot.
From there, the Crunch played good enough defensively, limiting Albany's chances and taking what was given by the defense.
Late in the second, captain Mike Angelidis found a loose puck in front of Frazee and buried it to give Syracuse the lead for good at 3-2.
Despite the slow start, goaltender Dustin Tokarski was excellent down the stretch, making key saves from shots all over the ice, especially while down a man. He finished the game with 25 saves on 27 shots, much improved from his opening night performance against the Rochester Americans.Tags: Cory Conacher, Dustin Tokarski, Hockey, Mike Angelidis, NHL, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik, Syracuse Crunch, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov