BINGHAMTON, NY - The Binghamton Senators came into the Calder Cup Playoffs as one of the league’s top teams. A battle with the Syracuse Crunch brought them to the four seed. Now, the face elimination as the Senators fell to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-2 in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quaterfinals Sunday afternoon at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
The B-Sens found out early that they were not getting the calls, as just 18 seconds into the game, Derek Grant took a four minute high-sticking penalty. This proved crucial as Binghamton was looking for a quick and strong start after being dominated in the opening frame Saturday. On the ensuing powerplay, Riley Holzapfel scored his first goal of the postseason. Holzapfel had the puck in the slot and Nathan Lawson was screened by his own men, leading to the opening goal.
The good news was the goal came at the 2:48 mark, just seconds after the first half of the double minor expired, giving the Sens an extended chance to come back. It took 14:35, with a great one-on-one chance by Brett Lebda along the way, but Binghamton finally figured out Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Chris Wideman had the puck at the point, and quickly passed to the right side where Mark Stone was camped out. Meanwhile Matt Puempel was cutting into the slot and Stone swiftly fed him. Puempel let go a wrister from within feet of the goal that Zatkoff had no way to react to. The score was tied at 1 as the teams headed into the first intermission.
Despite outshooting the Penguins 25-11 in the final two periods, the B-Sens fell into a hole they could not climb out of in the second period. Chris Collins came in from the right side and let go a slap shot from just behind the circle that Lawson probably should have stopped. It trickled back behind him and into the net to make it 2-1 Penguins, and they didn’t look back. Brian Dumoulin and Dylan Reese were credited with the assists at the 12:03 mark.
Despite being down just one goal, the Senators began to play sloppy and desperate. While no penalties were called, they appeared to be sloppy on passing and on defense, but still were able to keep the shots to a minimum. They didn’t play badly, just sloppy. Their desperation showed as in the final second of the period, Warren Peters somehow slipped a goal past Lawson. There were battles and the B-Sens fought hard to get the puck out of the zone. In fact, the save was made by Lawson, who appeared to argue to the referees that he covered the puck. The goal was not reviewed and Lawson continued to argue after the book was closed on the second stanza. Jayson Megna and Zack Sill were credited with the assists.
“We just got swamped,” Head coach Luke Richardson said. “We just were not playing together. Just one or two mistakes and we got a little impatient.
Looks like we feel sorry for ourselves and they score in the last second.”
The B-Sens desperation, with some help from the officials, doomed them in the final period. Despite outshooting the Penguins 14-5 in the final frame, the opportunities never seemed to come for Binghamton.
The officials also decided to take over the game, with a total of 9 penalties for 26 minutes worth of time, called. This included a penalty on Hugh Jessiman for goaltender interference, when in fact it appeared he skated out of the way of the goalie. They also had a few non-calls that irked up members of the B-Sens, including Brett Lebda. Lebda was lost at the 8:32 mark for the rest of the night, as he incurred an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the officials appeared to miss a penalty committed on him. as he was being sent to the sin bin, Lebda continued to make his case and was ejected from the game (officially given a 10 minute misconduct), adding insult to injury for the desperate B-Sens.
One glimmer of hope came with only 18 seconds left, the Senators on a powerplay, and Lawson out of his net. Wideman let go a hard slapshot from the left point that bounced off a few sticks. The scorers said it only touched Penguins sticks and the goal was credited to the defenseman, but it was too little too late. The goal was assisted by Stephane Da Costa, but it was as close as the Senators got as they skated to the final whistle with a 3-2 loss.
“It’s heart. It’s not here for an easy game,” Richardson explained. “You work all year for this time of year and you’ve got to rise above it and play harder. They’re doing it just that little bit more than we are. We’ve got to go into their rink. Hopefully with not pressure and nothing to lose and try to turn the tables.”
The series moves to a game five, and a do or die for Binghamton. The game is set for 7:05 PM Thursday from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Should the B-Sens win, game four would be on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre and if they win that game, the series would return to Binghamton for a pivotal game 5, Monday, May 6.
“We’ve got to play mistake free right now,” Richardson said in advance of Thursday. “They’re a solid team. They don’t give up scoring chances.
We’ve got to make sure we come together as a team because we’re down to one game. All we have to do is win one game. It’s a one game at a time mentality.”
1. Jeff Zatkoff (WBS) W, 36 SV
2. Chris Collins (WBS) G
3. Riley Holzapfel (WBS) G