Two goal leads and discipline have been the Connecticut Whale’s Achilles’ Heel to this point in the season and they both reared their ugly heads Sunday as the Binghamton Senators defeated the New York Ranger’s top minor league affiliate 4-3 in front of 2,669 at the XL Center.
The Whale jumped out of the gate fast with strong play in both ends of the ice and certainly looked like the top team in the American League’s Eastern Conference while the Sens looked like the cellar-dwellers that they are.
At 8:56 Mats Zuccarello, who had two goals on the night, was named the number two star of the game and was active all over the ice, missed a wide open net and hit the post.
The Whale scored five-straight power-play goals in their win over Springfield the night before and they looked equally sharp while Matt Carkner was sitting in the sin bin and Kris Newbury found Zuccarello for their set play in front of the net and “The Norwegian Hobbit” buried his sixth of the season for the 1-0 lead at 12:57.
It only took 19 seconds for the Whale to double their lead as Andreas Thuresson fired a one-timer from a Ryan Bourque pass from just inside the right circle and just up and over Robin Lehner’s (23 saves, 6-8-1), glove for the Whale’s nemesis, a 2-0 lead.
Binghamton attempted to take the Whale off their game early by taking some questionable hits and the like, but first Stu Bickel stood up for a teammate by fighting Carkner at 15:18 and then moments later when Mark Borowiecki made a very questionable hit to Kelsey Tessier along the boards, Jared Nightingale came in to fight, and for that matter pummel him, over it.
As the first period ended, the Whale lead in shots (10-8) the score (2-0) and were in control. But something mentally changed between periods and it was obvious right from the start of the second frame.
“I thought we played well the first period and had some guys step up physically (Bickel and Nightingale) as far as the fighting and giving (the Senators) no life or nothing to build on,” a clearly perturbed Whale head coach Ken Gernander said in his post game press conference. “We were up 2-0 with a couple of fights, then the rest of the guys didn’t respond and seemed to relax. They didn’t feel the onus was on them to do the little things like finish checks, block shots and pressure on the forecheck. They just thought everything had been taken care of at that point, and we didn’t carry the play at all in the second period.”
Zuccarello agreed. “It was a real bad (second) period for us,” He said. “We stopped playing, and that’s not acceptable.”
Two goals over a span of just 1:19, the first came at 6:01 as Rob Klinkhammer took a feed from the game’s Third Star, Stephane Da Costa to make it 2-1 and then the second, and the first of two on the night by the games’ First Star Andre Petersson. Klinkhammer got the primary assist on the goal to knot the score at two each.
The Whale gave up a third unanswered goal to Derek Grant on the power play at 15:35 and like that, the spirit in the Whale’s play was gone.
If there’s one thing you can say about Mats Zuccarello is that he’s not the one to give up. He scored his second of the game off a feed from the recently returned from the Rangers, Andre Deveaux to tie the game with just 1:10 to go in the second period.
It’s just the way this team has played that despite playing so poorly in the period that they would come back and find a way to get it done in the third period, but it just never materialized.
8:07 into the final frame, Petersson got his second of the contest from the right circle after Cam Talbot (30 saves, 6-4-0) left a juicy rebound in front of the net off a Carkner shot from the right circle. Talbot could only to watch as it was knocked behind him past the stick-side and into the net by Petersson.
Much as they have done, the Whale elevated their game and intensity, but it was too little, too late.
Pavel Valentenko crushed David Dziurzynski into the boards and appeared to hurt his wrist while the Senators forward had to be helped off the ice and was “under evaluation” according to Senators head coach Kurt Kleinendorst.
Valentenko was given a five-minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct with 4:10 to go in the game.
Klinhammer took some of the pressure off when 35 seconds into the Whale kill he awarded them back two minutes when he was flagged for a high-sticking infraction.
With exactly two minutes left, a scramble in front of the Whale net led Carkner slashing (although it more closely looked like a spearing) to Newbury.
With two minutes left to go the Whale would have had a four-on-three power play, but Newbury lost his cool when he was called for an Unsportsmanlike Conduct call. Gernander said that referee Dan Dreger explained it to the Whale Coach and it seemed like he was called for something he said and it was NOT diving. Zuccarello, who was standing right next to Newbury at the time said that it was NOT for talking back, that Newbury didn’t say anything and the call was for Diving. Whichever way you want to take it, it eliminated a power play opportunity.
This was not the first time that Newbury has been at the center of a play where a power play opportunity has been lose because of something like that, which explains Gernander’s reaction.
Zuccarello summed it up this way, “This is a game we should win for sure, so we’re kind of disappointed. We played three (games) in three (days) and obviously were a little banged up and couldn’t get our legs going. They outshot us hard, and we didn’t get into the game.
“We didn’t play our game at all, and you can’t win games in this league if you don’t play 100 percent. We can’t be that lucky as we were (Saturday night) every game.”
Safe to say that Gernander would wholeheartedly agree and is certain to emphasize that point to his team what will sure to be a hard week of practice for the Whale.
Listen to the post game interviews for comments from Mats Zuccarello and head coach Ken Gernander below.
Joy Lindsay covers the Senators at Press Connects.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
SOUNDS OF THE GAME:
* Sorry for the delay in getting this report posted. I turn 50 today and last night after the game I took my wife and children out to dinner.
Voros – Audy-Marchessault – Bouchard
Zuccarello – Newbury – Deveaux
Bourque – Tessier – Thuresson
Grant – Owens – Tanski
Bell – Bickel
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Tim Erixon– Undisclosed Injury – Day-to-Day
Carl Hagelin – Recall, NY Rangers
John Mitchell – Recall, NY Rangers
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
1. BNG – A. Petersson
2. CT – M. Zuccarello
3. BNG – S. Da Costa
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Dan Dreger (51)
Derek Wahl (46)
Luke Galvin (2)
The Whale are off until Friday night when they go for round two of the “Battle of the Bourques.” Bob Crawford will be on the air with the broadcast from the XL Center starting with the pre-game show at 6:50pm on WCCC.com.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Binghamton Senators 4 at Connecticut Whale 3 – Status: Final
Sunday, December 4, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Binghamton 0 3 1 – 4
Connecticut 2 1 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Zuccarello 6 (Newbury, Bell), 12:57 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Thuresson 6 (Bourque), 13:16. Penalties-Carkner Bng (hooking), 12:50; Carkner Bng (fighting), 15:18; Bickel Ct (fighting), 15:18; Borowiecki Bng (fighting), 18:20; Nightingale Ct (fighting), 18:20.
2nd Period-3, Binghamton, Klinkhammer 3 (Da Costa, Wiercioch), 6:01. 4, Binghamton, Petersson 6 (Klinkhammer, Gryba), 7:20. 5, Binghamton, Grant 4 (Bartlett, Borowiecki), 15:35 (PP). 6, Connecticut, Zuccarello 7 (Deveaux), 18:50. Penalties-Thuresson Ct (interference), 14:14; Bell Ct (holding), 19:36.
3rd Period-7, Binghamton, Petersson 7 (Carkner, Da Costa), 8:07. Penalties-Valentenko Ct (major – boarding, game misconduct – boarding), 15:50; Klinkhammer Bng (high-sticking), 16:25; Carkner Bng (slashing), 18:00; Newbury Ct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:00; Bell Ct (tripping), 19:29.
Shots on Goal-Binghamton 8-19-7-34. Connecticut 10-5-11-26.
Power Play Opportunities-Binghamton 1 / 4; Connecticut 1 / 1.
Goalies-Binghamton, Lehner 6-8-1 (26 shots-23 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 6-4-0 (34 shots-30 saves).
Referees-Dan Dreger (51).
Linesmen-Derek Wahl (46), Luke Galvin (2).