Goaltender Matt O’Connor had himself quite a night as he had 31 saves while Curtis Lazar scored the game winner with time running out in the third, as the Binghamton Senators (2-1-0-1) went ahead and spoiled the Utica Comets’ (1-4-0-0) home opener by a score of 2-1 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday.
It was a hard fought battle for both clubs as all three goals were scored on the powerplay, with even strength action that went back and forth.
Utica’s Carter Bancks would put his team up 1-0 with Vincent Dunn in the box for tripping. Forward Alexandre Grenier’s wrist shot from the sideboards was deflected by Bancks in the slot that eluded a screened O’Connor, as Senator defenseman Michael Kostka missed his man in front.
Kostka would go on and have a period to forget with missed passes and pucks that bounced over his stick on several occasions. Shots would favor Utica by a 15-6 margin with the Comets running on adrenaline that sent the Sens on their heels in front of the home fans for the first time this season.
But Binghamton would settle down and looked much better in the middle frame and as a result tied it on a beautifully placed wrist shot from rookie sensation Francis Perron past Comet netminder Richard Bachman at 3:58. Frankie placed the puck from up high in the circle through traffic for his second of the season, and fourth overall point in four games.
O’Connor played well and made some key stops that included a nice kick save on Darren Archibald’s slapper from inside the blueline to help preserve the tie heading into the final 20 minutes.
As both clubs were buzzing in the third period, O’Connor and Bachman put on a solid enough goaltender clinic that it appeared the game was headed into overtime. However, that would change as Lazar was tripped by defenseman Ashton Sautner as he cut towards the net with 2:58 left. It would be the fifth powerplay opportunity for Binghamton and it turned out to be the most crucial one.
With Phil Varone added to the #1 unit, that would end up being all it took as he set up the game winner with a crisp goal mouth pass to an open Lazar who then fell to one knee as he buried home a one-timer into the empty net for his second of the season. Bachman didn’t have a chance as the Senators were determined to score the go-ahead goal.
In the final minute, the Comets had some determination of their own left in them as Bachman was pulled for the extra attacker with over a minute left to play, but O’C and the Senators held on for the first road win of the season.
POST GAME NOTES
- O’Connor was a late decision to start when Chris Driedger was not available after morning practice.
- Chad Nehring left the game early on in the third period from a viscous hit by defenseman Andrey Pedan that sent him to the ice, and was helped off in what looked to be a shoulder injury possible concussion. Pedan received two minutes for Checking to the Head on the play.
- Perron is turning out to be an offensive threat as he leads the club with his 4 points. With Varone taking Kyle Flanagan’s spot look for that trend to continue.
- Varone didn’t miss a beat for his season debut in Binghamton. Great addition and will be counted on as one of the top players.
- Powerplay looked better (2/5) than previously as Varone played the point with Kostka, and Lazar, Nick Paul and Mike Blunden up front.
- O’C earned 1st star, Varone 2nd and Bachman 3rd.
- Lines were; Paul-Lazar-Blunden, Perron-Varone-Bailey, McCormick-Nehring-Robinson, Dunn-Rupert-Stortini / Englund-Kostka, Claesson-Sieloff, Carlisle-Harpur. DMan Guy Lepine was a healthy scratch. Forward Kyle Flanagan is injured and listed as day-to-day./
The Sens continue their 3 games in 4 days journey as they host the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night.
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