Binghamton Senators celebrate a 2-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as rookie Nick Paul with his first professional goal, couldn't of come at a better time during a tight game with both goaltenders slugging it out. Another rookie, Sens netminder Matt O'Connor continues to improve and now has confidence to go along with it as he was solid in earning his second win of the season over Phantoms' journeyman goaltender Jason LaBarbera. The victory comes on the heels of the Christmas break giving the team and its fans something to feel good about over the coming week.
In the opening period, both teams would test each others special teams with two penalties called a piece, and at one point Binghamton had a five on three for 1:28 but LaBarbera stood tall as neither club would benefit. O'Connor answers forcing Nick Cousins to miss the net ringing at his doorstep.
Binghamton would break the deadlock in the middle frame but not before LaBarbera simply robbing Colin Greening with a dazzling glove save with him by the crease. Ryan Dzingel goes solo from the center ice and turns on the after burners flying in the offensive zone and buries the puck top shelf over the shoulder of LaBarbera in close giving the BSens the 1-0 lead.
Then in the third O'Connor playing well and backs it up making a sweet glove hand save Statue of Liberty style one-on-one with Phantoms' forward Taylor Leier. Then LaBarbera with a kick save on Kyle Flanagan in front completing on odd man rush for the Senators.
Lehigh Valley ties the game at the 13:23 mark in the third as Kevin Goumas shoots from the corner edge of the cage and as the puck pops up Colin McDonald gets just enough stick on it to tap it in by O'Connor's shoulder bringing the home crowd on the edge of their seats.
With overtime looming, Binghamton receives a gift wrapped goal only St. Nick would deliver, as in Senators' rookie Nick Paul. Defenseman Mark Fraser steers the puck into the offensive zone from the blueline and it hits a Phantom player ricocheting directly over to an open Paul as he had a wide open net to play with while LaBarbera was caught out of position. Afterwards, with fans cheering the late tally, LaBarbera sits rejected in his crease with only 2:20 left in the final period and his team now is trailing.
With the Phantoms pulling their goaltender for the extra attacker, Binghamton with all kinds of pressure bottling up Lehigh Valley in the neutral zone. Matt Puempel with a golden opportunity misses the empty net from the blueline but the Senators come out on top as it's a time to celebrate with a stick salute to the fans at center ice sending them home happy on a chilly night in December.
POST GAME NOTES
- O'C was very good in stopping 22 stops with the lone goal impossible to block on a lucky bounce the Phantoms' way. This is a different goaltender then I saw a short few weeks ago as you can see the confidence rising and he looks comfortable in-between the pipes. He's not wandering around and has improved his angles squaring up on the shooter. Love watching the way his progress has been as O'Connor now has won two out of his last three.
- Guillaume Lepine, but returned to action. Puempel was slammed flat into the boards and grabbed his shoulder afterwards heading directly to the bench that might have looked to be a collar bone stress, but (surprisingly) returned to action. Ben Harpur also hit the boards landing flat on the ice and didn't look right when gathering himself, as he did not return to action.
- Pierre Dorion in the house taking Randy Lee's spot. That's what we need to see is that someone from Ottawa is here to see what's taken place in Binghamton.
- McCormick out being banged up a bit as he took a hit to the body on Friday's game in Syracuse. Tobias Lindberg returned to action after missing some time with an upper body injury. Lindberg played well I thought with Paul, but Dzingel has really been the star lately as you can see how well his development is coming along. That goal he scored in the second tonight was all him as he's learning how to finish while also being creative.
- Shots ended up 32-23 Senators as the defense was there in protecting O'Connor. The offense, not so much as the team lacks a legit goal scorer, with only two goals to show for over the last six periods. Also, lines were somewhat juggled throughout the night moving Puempel around and with only five defensemen after Harpur's injury.
The team is off next week for the Christmas break on a good note following the win. On Saturday they return to action as the Hartford Wolf Pack are in town.
*Cover Pic & Insert Courtesy of Alicia Strauch.