WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Paul Thompson received a wake-up call early in the first period of Wednesday’s matchup between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Binghamton Senators.
Skating along the boards in the Binghamton end, Thompson was crunched into the wall by Senators’ defenseman Mark Borowiecki. After a few moments on the ice to collect himself, Thompson stayed in the game and found the ultimate redemption – a goal that would turn out to be the game-winner.
The Penguins scored three times in the first period to beat the Senators 4-2. The win improves the Penguins to 35-28-2-1 and is their third in nine games against the Senators. With sixth-place Connecticut idle, the Penguins move into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 73 points.
There were two keys to Wednesday’s win – the first period and the last half of the third.
Goals by Trevor Smith, Chad Kolarik and Thompson marked the first time the Penguins scored three times in the opening period since Jan. 23 in a 3-0 win over Toronto.
Head coach John Hynes said the trio of goals was the result of the Penguins’ ability to establish their forecheck early.
“We wound up getting some momentum from that. Guys made some good plays,” Hynes said. “The goals that we scored were good goals, they weren’t lucky ones, and that gave the team a little bit of life.”
Smith started it off when he flipped in a rebound from a Kolarik shot at 11:35. The goal was Smith’s second in three games.
Kolarik earned his second point of the night – this time on a goal when he blazed a wrister from the slot three minutes later. It was Kolarik’s fourth two-point game in the last eight contests and gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
With less than four minutes remaining in the opening period, Thompson made it 3-0 with a perfectly placed shot from the right faceoff circle that found the top corner over Binghamton goaltender Nathan Lawson. The goal came 10 minutes after the hard hit from Borowiecki.
“It’s something that kind of wakes you up a bit when you get hit like that in the first couple of shifts,” Thompson said. “It felt good to go on and score one.”
A lull in the second period allowed Binghamton to establish offensive pressure, and the Senators beat Jeff Zatkoff with a backhand shot by Corey Cowick to cut the Penguins’ lead to two goals headed into the third period.
The Senators closed the gap to a single goal in the third period when Hugh Jessiman’s slapshot beat Zatkoff to make it 3-2.
That was as close as the Senators would get as Brian Gibbons put the game away with a power-play goal at 14:42 to seal the Penguins’ 4-2 win.
Hynes said his team’s finish was impressive as its start.
“We had a lead and the other team made a push, got to within one goal but we didn’t flinch,” he said. “That’s probably the most important thing coming out of this game.”
Along with the fact that the Penguins were able to maintain their four-point cushion above Manchester, who is battling for the last playoff spot.
“In all reality you can’t get too up or down right now with wins and losses,” Hynes said. “It’s just more or less you get points out of your games, stay the course and not get too high or low.”
• D Clark Seymour, D Cody Wild, RW Chris Minella, C Phil Dupuis (injury) and LW Steve MacIntyre were scratched for the Penguins.
• Robert Bortuzzo – back from Pittsburgh on a conditioning assignment – skated in his first game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton since Jan. 11. Bortuzzo is still part of Pittsburgh’s roster and is eligible to play three games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton without having to clear waivers. He finished the night with an assist, plus-2 and several big hits. Bortuzzo hasn’t played since Feb. 28 with the Penguins and admitted to feeling some rust early on.
“I had to take a couple of shifts to get into it,” Bortuzzo said. “It’s an adjustment for me going in and out of the lineup, but (Pittsburgh) does a good job with preparation and I just have to be ready when I am called upon.”
• Kolarik’s two-point night was his fourth in his last eight games.
Binghamton 2 Penguins 4
First Period: Scoring – 1. WBS, Trevor Smith 19 (Kolarik, Holzapfel) 11:35. 2. WBS, Chad Kolarik 24 (Holzapfel, Reese) 14:38. 3. Paul Thompson 16 (Collins, Bortuzzo) 16:27. Penalties – BNG, Borowiecki (roughing – double minor) 5:32; WBS, Uher (roughing) 5:32; WBS, Megna (interference) 7:52; WBS, Farnham (holding) 18:15.
Second Period: Scoring – 4. Corey Cowick 13 (Pageau, New) 12:51. Penalties – BNG, Sdao (holding) 2:31; BNG, Grant (delay of game) 3:14; Dziurzynski (slashing) 3:24; WBS, bench-served by Holzapfel (too many men) 5:24; BNG, Pageau (cross-checking) 18:20.
Third Period: Scoring – 5. BNG, Hugh Jessiman 10 (Wideman) 5:30. 6. WBS, Alex Grant 4 (Mormina) power play 14:42. Penalties – BNG, Lebda (tripping) 10:54; BNG, Cannone (slashing) 14:36; WBS, Dumoulin (holding) 17:13.
Shots on goal: Binghamton – 7-14-9-30; Penguins – 13-13-8-34
Power-play Opportunities: Binghamton – 0 of 3; Penguins – 1 of 7
Goaltenders: Binghamton – Nathan Lawson 9-5-1 (30 saves – 34 shots): Penguins – Jeff Zatkoff 21-19-0 (28-30)
Starters: Binghamton – G Brett Lebda, D Fredrik Claesson, LW David Dziurzynksi, C Derek Grant, RW Wacey Hamilton: Penguins – G Jeff Zatkoff, D Joey Mormina, LW Bobby Farnham, C Zach Sill, RW Adam Payerl
Three Stars: 1. WBS, Chad Kolarik (goal, assist) 2. WBS, Paul Thompson (game-winning goal) 3. Trevor Smith (goal)
Referee – Jean Hebert, Terry Koharski. Linesmen – Ryan Daisy, Jud Ritter
Attendance – 4,66