Thursday, December 30, 2010

Recap: Whale Win Behind Kennedy OT Goal Vs Former Club (Video)

The Connecticut Whale continued to ride the wave up the standings with Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over the Portland Pirates.  The Whale is now a superb 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 and 10-1-0-1 in the 12 games since the name change and those marks have moved the Whale into third place in the Atlantic Division only 1 point behind the Pirates for second.  One of the biggest keys for the Whale resurgence has been that on any given night a different guy could be the hero and on this night former Portland Pirate Tim Kennedy was that hero.  Just 36 seconds into overtime Kennedy would patiently hold the puck at the right faceoff circle looking for and faking multiple passes before finally firing the shot that would beat Pirate’s netminder Jhonas Enroth to the short side high.  The shot had beautiful placement on it, but if not for the patience and fake passes Enroth probably has a better chance to square up the shot and possibly save it. 

For Kennedy beating his old club has to add a little something to what has been a tough few months for the 24 year old who two seasons ago with Portland was on the AHL all-rookie team and led all first year players with 67 points and 49 helpers.  Kennedy would go to the big club, Buffalo Sabres the following season and have a decent rookie season in which he posted 10 goals and 16 assists in 78 games.  All seemed to be heading in the right direction but then Buffalo walked away from Kennedy’s arbitration award.  Trying to stay in the NHL Kennedy would sign with the New York Rangers but fail to make the club and end up back in the AHL this season.  Kennedy has had some ups and downs this season for the Whale but has gotten his game going of late with 1G and 3 assists in the last three contests including the game winner on this night.

As for the rest of the game the first period had no offense to speak of and as the highlights show the only real entertainment was a huge hit by Dale Weise in his own zone and then in the two fights that happened literally within five seconds of each other.  Brodie Dupont took on Tim Conboy and Conboy was in charge early in the fight, but Dupont would land the biggest punch of the fight to even it out by the end.  In the other fight Justin Soryal and Dennis McCauley would square off and while McCauley got in some good shots of his own I think Soryal won the fight overall, but a very good scrap.

While the first had little offense, the second had its share of chances and if not for strong goaltending by both Chad Johnson and Jhonas Enroth goals would have come.  The best chances stopped by Johnson were from Derek Whitmore who was left alone in front for a one-timer on a play from behind the net which Johnson would stop.  Then again while the Whale were on the power play Weise would try a backhand pass to Wade Redden at the point but it would be Whitmore streaking the other way on a breakaway Johnson would stone with the pad as Whitmore tried a wrist shot low stick side.

Early in the third while on a 5-on-3 power play it would be Enroth’s turn to make some big saves as he would stop the initial shot from Jeremy Williams and then stone Tim Kennedy’s rebound attempt and then Kennedy would attempt to slide it across the crease to Dale Weise but it would not connect. 

The scoreless tie was finally ended when Ryan McDonagh made a very smart play at the point when he held the Pirate’s attempted clear in the zone.  McDonagh instead of just playing the puck to keep it in fired it at the net and with Portland looking to break out it left three Whale players in front with only one Pirate defender and Kelsey Tessier would be the beneficiary as he would collect the rebound and have an open net to shoot at.  The Whale took the lead 1-0 4:58 into the final period.

That lead would be short lived however as just 1:11 later after Portland barely maintained the zone Colin Stuart would feed Paul Byron at the top of the left wing circle and he would wind and fire one by Johnson to make it 1-1.

Following the goal the Whale would have a few more chances lead by Evgeny Grachev taking a feed from Williams at the left side faceoff circle and firing a shot that beat Enroth but would then he the crossbar and stay out.  Finally the Whale would have a power play late in regulation, which would be the same one Kennedy scored on early in OT, but Chad Kolarik would be denied by Enroth in the waning seconds.

As most of you know following the game the Rangers called up Dale Weise from the Whale and also that the Whale will be getting Todd White in time for their weekend games.  It will be interesting to see how Gernander handles the lines with Zuccarello and Weise both in New York and where he incorporates White’s veteran presence in the lineup.