Springfield, Ma (AHL.com) – The Springfield Falcons (39-18-5-4) earned a 2-1 victory over the Connecticut Whale (33-27-5-3) on Saturday night at the MassMutual Center, moving into a four-way tie for the Eastern Conference lead and drawing closer to clinching a spot in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Falcons can wrap up a postseason berth this Tuesday when they host the Albany Devils. Springfield’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now three points. Its magic number to seal the Northeast Division title is four points, and the Falcons can accomplish that feat with a win in Connecticut next Friday.
Springfield is even with Binghamton, Providence, and Syracuse for the conference’s top spot with games in hand on each club. The Falcons are a franchise-high 21 games over .500 for the first time since play ended on Apr. 14, 1996.
Falcons goaltender Curtis McElhinney was strong in Saturday’s first period, making 10 saves as Springfield fought through three shorthanded situations. McElhinney ended the stanza in style, diving to prevent Nick Palmieri from cashing in on a rebound as time expired.
Springfield took the momentum gained by its penalty-killing units and translated that into a pair of power-play tallies in the second.
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Spencer Machacek worked to set up Michael Chaput early in the frame. Audy-Marchessault fed Machacek in the right circle, who snapped a centering pass to Chaput on the doorstep. Chaput whacked Machacek’s feed past Connecticut netminder Jason Missiaen and in at 3:32, giving Springfield a 1-0 edge.
Moments later, McElhinney robbed Palmieri at the top of the crease once again, but this time the Whale finished their opportunity, as Brandon Segal flicked the puck over a diving David Savard and past McElhinney’s glove at 5:32, tying the contest, 1-1.
With Springfield back on the man advantage, Nick Holden took a puck at the blue line and guided a slap shot around a screen created by Andrew Joudrey and past Missiaen at 7:29, putting Springfield in command for good, 2-1.
The Falcons threatened consistently throughout the second with quick puck movement, peppering Missiaen with 17 shots in the period. Their lead remained at one goal after two.
McElhinney and the Falcons held off the Whale in the third, shutting down an early power play and limiting to Connecticut to seven final shots as Springfield won, 2-1.
With 27 wins, McElhinney (27-13-3) is second all-time for victories by a Falcons goaltender in one season. He made 25 saves to move to within three of Scott Langkow’s team-best 30 wins, set in 1997-1998.
Missiaen (10-6-2) set aside 26 of 28 shots.
The Falcons and Devils square off at the MassMutual Center this Tuesday at 7 p.m., presented by Mohawk Communications. Springfield would guarantee itself a playoff spot with a win over Albany and any form of a loss by Norfolk to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Single-game tickets to see the Falcons in 2012-2013 can be purchased at the MassMutual Center Box Office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. through game time on Saturday home dates, and starting four hours prior to Sunday home contests. Fans can also purchase tickets by logging onto Ticketmaster.com. For information about discounted group packages to Falcons home games, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
Springfield’s .659 points percentage is the highest in the Eastern Conference at the end of the 25th week of the 2012-2013 season…The Falcons would set a franchise record for games above .500 of 22 by beating Albany on Tuesday…Springfield has won 17 of 20 at the MassMutual Center since Dec. 30, and is tied for the most points in the league on home ice (50)…The Falcons’ five-game winning streak is one shy of their longest of the season of six, set from Jan. 12 to 23…Springfield was 2/5 on the power play, and 5/5 on the penalty kill