ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- It's clear that if the St. John's IceCaps want to win their American Hockey League playoff series against the Norfolk Admirals they'll need to solve goalie John Gibson.
Gibson stopped 42 of 43 shots he faced to beat St. John's 3-1 on Tuesday in Game 1 of their series, improving his 1.42 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in four first-round playoff games.
"Their goaltender is obviously really strong in net," IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge said. "He has the numbers he has in the playoffs for a reason and he was very strong for them tonight. I thought we did a good job of trying to get traffic in front of him.
"Their defencemen did an excellent job boxing out and making our forwards work."
St. John's defenceman Will O'Neill said the key to solving Gibson is the same as beating any hot goalie.
"Just like (solving) any goalie, we need to get more traffic to the net," O'Neill said. "I think second and third opportunities are where we are going to have success. We need bodies to the net and to (capitalize) on those opportunities."
McCambridge said scoring the first goal would have been key Tuesday night.
"I thought we had some opportunities," he said. "Obviously we would have liked to get the first goal to build some momentum. With regards to generating offence, I thought we generated some good scoring chances and had some decent traffic."
Nic Kerdiles scored two goals and John Kurtz had the game-winner for Norfolk.
Andrew Gordon replied for St. John's, while IceCaps goalie Michael Hutchinson stopped 24 shots.
Norfolk opened the scoring when Kerdiles one timed a wrist-shot from the slot 10:14 into the first period, finishing off a pass from Andre Petersson, who sent a pass from behind the net.
St. John's killed a 40-second 5-on-3 power play, starting at 13:15 in the first period.
Despite the IceCaps outshooting the Admirals 18-5 in the second period, Gibson was impenetrable in the Norfolk net.
St. John's found the equalizer 3:20 into the third period when Gordon tipped in a heavy point shot just as a power play expired. Gibson saw little of the shot, if anything, as Jason Jaffray and Gordon had set up on the doorstep.
Admirals forward Zack Strotini carried the puck to the net and, on the ensuing scramble, Kurtz tapped it in to retake the lead, 2-1, at the 7-minute mark of the third period.
Kerdiles added an empty netter with 13.8 seconds left.