WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Trailing the Binghamton Devils 3-2 in the third period on Friday, there was a moment when the outcome of the game hung in mid-air.
The play occurred when Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin forward Jarrett Burton raced in to battle for possession along the end boards and inadvertently hit a bouncing puck high into the air. The puck floated over the Binghamton net and hit goaltender Ken Appleby in the back before rolling across the line.
The odd goal was Burton’s second of the night and forced overtime, which led to a Teddy Blueger tally and a 4-3 Penguins win. Blueger accounted for the other two Penguin goals and newly acquired netminder Michael Leighton stopped 28 shots to win his first start with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
There were several key moments in the game, including Binghamton scoring three unanswered goals late in the first to erase a 2-0 lead, tempers flaring at the end of regulation, and a successful Penguins’ penalty kill in overtime before Blueger’s goal.
But the highlight of the night was Burton’s game-tying goal that floated through the air.
“That was a weird one,” Burton said, who said he was actually trying to knock the puck down. “It ended up going straight in the air. I saw it the whole way and I’m like ‘Oh geez, I don’t know if (Appleby) sees it or not.’ ”
He didn’t, and the Penguins tied the game 3-3 after enduring a rough stretch where it appeared they would lose their third straight contest.
The Penguins seized control early and built a 2-0 lead in the first nine minutes. Adam Johnson skated behind the net and hit Blueger in front for a one-timer to make it 1-0, and four minutes later Burton deflected a Kevin Czuczman slapshot past Appleby to put the Penguins up by two.
Just when it appeared the Penguins were set to pile on the goals, the Devils struck back.
John Quenneville was left open during a power play and picked a corner to beat Leighton to cut Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s lead to 2-1. The Devils tied it three minutes later and then, with less than a minute left in the period and the Penguins on the power play, Binghamton took the lead when Michael Latta converted a two-on-one rush for a shorthanded tally to make it 3-2.
While the Penguins looked sharp in the first period before allowing three unanswered goals, they were distastrous in the second. Despite four power-play opportunities the Penguins failed to find the back of the net and the pressure of losing six of the last eight games seemed like it was beginning to mount.
“When we’re trying to come out of this, to get a win it’s hard,” said head coach Clark Donatelli. “When we don’t execute, the puck ends up in the back of our net. It’s been that way for the last 10 games.”
Midway through the third period Burton tied it up with his second goal of the game — the one that floated behind Appleby, and in the waning minutes tempers flared.
Zach Aston-Reese knocked Binghamton’s Nick Lappin out of the game with a clean hit along the boards, and then he accepted an invite from Michael Latta to drop the gloves. On the next shift, Garrett Wilson crushed Josh Jacobs into the boards, igniting a scrum.
“We’re a desperate hockey club. We’ve been struggling,” Donatelli said. “It was an emotional game for our team.”
Wilson was assessed a charging penalty on the hit, and the Devils power play carried over into the first 1:38 of overtime. Just as the Penguins killed off the Binghamton man advantage, they averted disaster on a turnover in front of the net that Leighton staved off. On the ensuring rush, Jean-Sebastien Dea fed a lead pass to Blueger, who beat Appleby in close for the win.
Greg McKegg didn’t play due to a family issue and won’t return until after the Christmas break, Donatelli said.