PORTLAND – The Syracuse Crunch rallied from a two-goal deficit for the second time in three games to eliminate the Portland Pirates from the AHL playoffs Thursday night.
Ondrej Palat scored his second goal of the game with 17 seconds left in overtime as the Crunch completed a sweep of the best-of-five Calder Cup series with a 4-3 win before 3,909 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“I haven’t seen a team push when they need to push the way they do and find a way to get back into games,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “We played some pretty good teams this year, but I haven’t seen a team that pushed the way they needed to push like that and find a way to get it done.”
Mike Angelides started the Syracuse rally by scoring with 6:01 left, and Palat made it 3-3 with 1:12 left after goalie Cedric Desjardins was pulled for an extra skater.
“We’ve got a lot of gamers on our team,” said Syracuse Coach Rob Zettler, who spent parts of two seasons with the Pirates when they were an affiliate of the Washnington Capitals. “It all began with our captain (Angelides). When we were down 3-1, he kind of put the team on his shoulders. He scored a huge goal.”
Portland took a 3-1 lead in the first 10 minutes of the third period.
Alexandre Bolduc jammed the puck inside the right post 19 seconds into the period to snap a 1-1 tie and Nick Johnson tipped in Michael Stone’s blast from center point for his second playoff goal to give them their second two-goal lead of the series.
“It’s disappointing we have a two-goal lead with five minutes left and can’t close it out,” Edwards said.
The Pirates opened the scoring 15 minutes into the game when Andy Miele turned a feed from Bolduc, fresh back from a month-long stint with the parent Phoenix Coyotes, into his first goal of the playoffs with five seconds left on Portland’s second power play of the game.
The Crunch held a 7-6 lead in shots on goal in the first period, with Portland goalie Chad Johnson making three saves in the final minute during Syracuse’s first power-play goal.
Despite the paucity of shots, goalies from both teams made key stops in the first period.
Seven minutes into the game, Johnson stopped AHL MVP Tyler Johnson’s bid for his second short-handed goal of the series.
About three minutes later, Desjardins stopped Chris Conner’s breakaway attempt down the left side.
The Crunch pulled into a 1-1 tie six minutes into the second period when defenseman Radko Gudas put in a blast from center point three seconds into their second power play of game.
Syracuse held a 12-3 edge in shots in the second.
“I have to give their group a lot of credit,” Edwards said. “They forced us into a game that we didn’t play very well. They dictated the pace, the physicality, and our goaltender gave us an opportunity to be in that game.”
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