WILKES-BARRE TWP. — When the Binghamton Devils scored a questionable goal with 90 seconds remaining for a 3-3 tie, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins could’ve given up.
But with four days off coming up for the AHL All-Star Classic, there was no reason not to keep going full throttle.
The Penguins overcame a penalty-filled second period and several momentum swings to beat the Devils, 4-3 in overtime. Zach Aston-Reese scored the game-winner and Tristan Jarry made 26 saves in his first start since returning from Pittsburgh. The Penguins (26-12-3-1) enter the break with a hold on first place in the Atlantic Division.
“Going into the break with a few days off, we had nothing to save it for,” said Garrett Wilson, who got into a fight in the second period and scored a goal late in the third.
“It was an emotional game. Both teams really wanted it, but we just wanted it more.”
Jean-Sebastien Dea gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead in his first game back from Pittsburgh when he blazed past everyone on the ice and beat Mackenzie Blackwood up high midway through the first period.
The Devils turned up the physical play in the second and the chippiness got the Penguins off their game.
Even after Kevin Czucaman slammed home a drop pass from Gage Quinney to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead, tempers flared and the Devils reaped the benefits.
During a run of four consecutive trips to the penalty box by the Penguins, Devils’ forward Nick Lappin scored two power play goals to even things up at 2-2. During the penalty-filled period, Teddy Blueger fought Viktor Loov after Blackwood stopped him on a shorthanded breakaway.
Later, Garrett Wilson pounded Ben Thomson in a fight less than two minutes later. The bout marked Wilson’s third trip to the penalty box in the period.
“We’re such a good team five-on-five that we should try to stay out of the box,” Wilson said. “I took a couple of penalties I wish I didn’t take. But it got chippy and the boys stuck together.”
Wilson gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead with less than two minutes to play when he collected a pass from Tom Kostopoulos and sent a wrister into the net.
But Binghamton answered just 30 seconds later to tie it 3-3 on a goal that was deflected by a high stick, according to head coach Clark Donatelli. The officials discussed the play but the goal counted.
“When I reviewed it, it is a high stick,” Donatelli said. “But the officials are making those calls in a fraction of a second. It’s tough.”
Still, the Penguins knew they couldn’t dwell on the call.
“It’s tough not having video review for that kind of stuff. We probably should have that by now,” Wilson said. “But once they called it a goal we just put it behind us.”
In overtime, Jarry came up big when he stopped Lappin on a breakaway, and the Penguins got the game-winner from Aston-Reese with less than two minutes remaining. Aston-Reese fired an initial shot that Blackwood stave, but he corralled a rolling puck, waited out the netminder and fired it into the open net for the win.
– D Zach Trotman, D Kevin Spinozzi, RW Patrick McGrath, F Tom Sestito (injury), F Christian Thomas, D Lukas Bengtsson (injury), F Colin Smith and G Michael Leighton (injury) were scratched for the Penguins.
– Kostopoulos returned from an injury to play in his first game since Oct. 27. He finished the night with an assist.
“He was good. Better than I was expecting,” Donatelli said. “He was good with his pace and the physical play was fine. That’s a great sign.”
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky