The Binghamton Senators earned their second consecutive shootout victory Saturday night, in front of a sold-out Broome County Arena crowd. After a 1-0 shootout win Friday at Syracuse, Binghamton came away with a 3-2 triumph Saturday over the Hershey Bears.
“We got some luck in the shootouts,” said Binghamton coach Luke Richardson. “We’ve got some skilled guys and they really executed there. That’s where we get the extra point both nights and it’ll go a long way at the end of the year.”
Robin Lehner came up big again, with a 40-save effort in regulation and overtime, along with three stops in the shootout.
“A shootout is always special,” said Lehner. “You kind of take the edge off, you got one point and the other one is a bonus --You just try to relax and challenge the shooter. I enjoy it.”
Lehner, who was sent down from Ottawa on Tuesday without getting a start with the big club, has done everything you could possibly ask of a goaltender in the last two games.
“He’s determined to have a solid year and roll with the punches,” said Richardson. “He knows the circumstances in his position right now and he wants to play games and continue to do well.”
Lehner faced 13 shots in the first period of Saturday night’s game, allowing one goal on a shot from Ryan Stoa through a screen. The shot came from the faceoff dot and caught iron. With bodies in front, Lehner never saw it and Hershey was on the board 7:29 into the contest.
Mike Hoffman got that goal back for Binghamton with 2:39 to go in the first. He stole the puck from the Bears’ Jeff Taffe, who bobbled it just enough. Hoffman took it away, moved in and had all day to set up and rifle it by Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin, tying the game at one.
Binghamton got on the board first in the second stanza, when Mark Stone banged home a rebound on a scramble in front of Sabourin. It was Stone’s eighth goal of the season and gave Binghamton a 2-1 lead 2:02 in. Derek Grant and David Dziurzynski earned the assists.
Stone would leave the game about halfway through the third period, after it looked like he may have taken a slash. He dropped his stick, headed to the bench and then to the locker room. He did not return.
Hershey tied things up with 13:09 left in the second, when Steve Oleksy faked a shot, moved and let it go from the point, tying the game for the second time.
Binghamton survived the third, including a rolling puck that took a weird hop off the boards, went through Lehner’s legs in the blue paint and went by the net.
Derek Grant did take a delay of game call with 1:07 in the game, meaning Binghamton would have 53 seconds to kill as overtime started 4-on-3. They killed that off and the overtime would end with nothing decided. Sabourin stopped three shots in the extra session, while Lehner was credited with four.
The B-Sens made the shootout look easy. Mika Zibanejad, Stephane Da Costa, who had the only goal on Friday and Jack Downing all scored.
Hershey sent Garrett Mitchell, former Binghamton star Ryan Potulny and Taffe, up in the shootout, but they could not solve Lehner. That gave Binghamton a 3-0 shootout win and a 3-2 win.
With the victory, Lehner improved to 16-5-1 on the season, with a save percentage of .948. He has allowed an average of 1.80 goals-per-game.
Quite a turnaround for a guy who had 13 wins all of last season and a goals-against-average of 3.26.
“Last year, speaking for myself, I wasn’t having any fun,” Lehner said. “It was not a great atmosphere and this year is awesome. When you play happy, you play better.”
Lehner said everyone is one year older compared to last year and this is a different team. He called this one of the best teams he’s been on since he’s been here.
“Obviously, I like being up there (in Ottawa), but t’s a little bit hard for me,” Lehner said. “People like to put me as immature or whatnot, but the guy that likes to get sent down probably won’t get called up again.
“I really like this team, and I’ve grown to love this arena and I really like this city. We’ve had our ups-and downs- through the years. It started with tough love and it’s been going uphill from there. This arena has taught me a lot and helped me build my mental game. It’s just part of the process and I’m very happy with how the process is going.”
Binghamton (27-10-1-3) heads into the all-star break with the best record in the Eastern Conference, two points better than the Springfield Falcons. They hold a two point lead over Syracuse in the East Division.
Lehner’s individual turnaround statistically is a big reason why Binghamton has turned things around so drastically from a year ago. The B-Sens finished last season with 29 wins and 65 points for the entire season.
With 41 games in the books, Binghamton will now enjoy a bit of a break for the All-Star game on Monday night. Richardson will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars and will have Lehner and Eric Gryba on his squad in Providence.
Binghamton returns to action Feb. 1, when they travel to St. John’s to take on the IceCaps in the first of back-to-back weekend games.
Game highlights courtesy of SendtoNews and the Binghamton Senators.