Finding themselves down 4-0 to the Norfolk Admirals within the opening 25-mintues of the game, the Worcester Sharks rallied back with goals from alternate captain Bracken Kearns, defenseman Matt Pelech and rookie left winger Riley Brace. However, the rally fell short as the Sharks were defeated 4-3 by the Admirals Friday night at the DCU Center. With the loss, the Sharks now trail the Admirals by eight points for the final playoff spot in the AHL Eastern Conference with only five games remaining.
The Admirals took a 1-0 lead at 12:29 of the first period when left winger Harry Zolnierczyk exploded up the middle of the ice past Sharks defensemen Derek Joslin and Dylan DeMelo and poked the puck through the pads of Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock on a breakaway from the seat of his pants for his 11th goal of the season despite being tripped up by DeMelo.
Off a face-off win inside the Sharks zone, Admirals defenseman Matt Clark fired a shot on goal from the right point that was blocked in front by Admirals forward Steven Whitney, who backhanded the puck from on top of the crease past Stalock at 14:05 for his second goal of the season.
In the the second period, the Admirals pushed the lead to 3-0 at 2:45 when left winger Josh Brittain knocked the puck out of the air on the right side of the net and past a sprawled Stalock for his 11th goal of the season after Stalock had made the initial save on Admirals alternate captain Rod Pelley's breakaway chance. Less than two minutes later at 4:39, Whitney scored his second goal of the game, third of the season, when he beat Stalock with a quick shot from the bottom of the right face-off circle after corralling a feed from linemate Chris Wagner.
Kearns stopped the bleeding and got the Sharks on the scoreboard at 12:01 when he corralled a behind the net pass from Sharks rookie right winger Daniil Tarasov on top of the crease and beat Admirals goaltender Frederik Andersen with a point blank shot for his 21st goal of the season. Sharks rookie center Rylan Schwartz was credited with the secondary assist.
In the third period, the Sharks came out with a new found intensity and got themselves back into the game. At 3:27, Pelech ripped a shot from the top of the right point at the blue line that got through traffic in front and beat Andersen for his second goal of the season. Sharks rookie center Travis Oleksuk and defenseman Sena Acolatse were credited with the assists.
38-seconds later, Brace extended his goal scoring streak to three games and pulled the Sharks to within a goal when he stuffed the puck into an open net on a wraparound shot after the Admirals turned the puck over behind their own net. The goal, which was unassisted, was Brace's third of the season.
Despite scoring twice and out-shooting the Admirals 13-1 in the third period, the Sharks couldn't get the tying goal past Andersen, who made 39 saves for the win.
NOTES... Shots were 42-24 in favor of the Sharks... The Sharks went 0-for-2 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill... Stalock made 20 saves and is now 16-15-3 with a 2.63 goals-against-average and .912 save percentage... Tarasov and Sharks rookie right winger Eriah Hayes each had a game high five shots on goal... Sharks captain John McCarthy did not return to the game after taking heavy hit early in the first period... Kearns dropped the gloves with Admirals left winger Patrick Maroon at 4:18 of the first period... With the one fight, the Sharks now have 79 through 71 games... The Sharks have lost seven straight games at the DCU Center, tying a franchise record set back in 2006 (via SharksAHL.com)... Adam Comrie (inj), Curt Gogol (inj), Yanni Gourde (inj), Brodie Reid (inj), Marek Viedensky (inj), Jimmy Bonneau (scr), Mike Brennan (scr), Christophe Lalancette (scr), Sebastian Stalberg (scr), Denny Urban (scr) and Dane Walters (scr) did not dress for the Sharks... Lalancette was signed by the Sharks to an ATO on April 11... Sharks defenseman Nick Petrecki was named the team's winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for a third straight season on April 11... This was the third of four meetings between the teams this season and the first meeting since Oct. 13, 2012... The Sharks are 0-2-0-1 against the Admirals this season, 13-16-3-4 at the DCU Center and 30-32-3-6 with 69 points overall.
1. Steven Whitney - Admirals (2-0-2)
2. Patrick Maroon - Admirals (0-2-2)
3. Bracken Kearns - Sharks (1-0-1)