The Syracuse Crunch returned to home ice for one of the final times before the All Star break when they played host to North Division rival Binghamton Friday night. Syracuse surrendered a goal just over two minutes in to the contest, gave up two short-handed goals, and struggled to bury chances past Sens goalie Matt O’Connor despite having 36 shots on goal. Crunch head coach Ben Groulx was quick to place the blame on a variety of different players and units.
“It was just one of those nights where nothing worked for us,” Groulx said. “Our centers got killed in the face-off circle, our power play didn’t do their job, our defenseman struggled tonight moving the puck and we didn’t have much speed.”
At just the 2:40 mark of the first period, Sens forward Alex Krushelnyski took a centering pass from Phil Varone and dangled around Crunch blue-liner Ben Thomas for a clear look at the Crunch cage. Starting net-minder Kristers Gudlevskis came out to the top of the blue paint to try and poke-check the puck away, but Krushelnyski out-waited him to easily slide the puck in to the back of the net for the early one-goal lead.
The Crunch were able to get one back just under seven minutes later when Jeremy Morin collected a lose puck in the high slot and sent a spin-o-rama shot up and over the glove of O’Connor for his eighth goal of the season. Assists were from Tanner Richard and Daniel Walcott.
“I’m just trying to get pucks on net,” Morin said. “I’ve had tons of opportunities the last couple of games and I've been missing them, so I’m just trying to get pucks on net any way I can and hopefully they start to go in.”
The Senators were able to jump ahead once more towards the end of the middle stanza. Crunch All Star defenseman Matt Taormina couldn’t control a bouncing puck at the blue-line while on the man-advantage. Phil Varone was there to capitalize on the Syracuse mishap. Varone skated in quick on Gudlevskis and beat him with a quick back-hand shot glove side.
In the third period, Varone would do the same exact thing to Taormina and Gudlevskis. Just past the ten minute mark of the regulation frame, Varone lifted the stick of Taormina along the boards and rushed in to the zone a clear break. This time he opted to fire a wrister into the top left corner of the Crunch net to extend the Binghamton lead to 3-1.
“We can’t afford to have something like that happen, especially one, but we gave up two,” Taormina said. “It’s unacceptable on the power play.”
The Crunch tried to rally late and were able to convert with an extra attacker on the ice. Cory Conacher threw an innocent shot to the front of the net and Yanni Gourde was there to deflect it home. Gorude’s team leading 14th goal of the season came from Conacher and Morin at 17:07 of the third period.
The goal gave the building a little bit of life, but would prove to be too little, too late. The Senators potted an empty net goal not long after and took two road points from the North Division-leading Crunch.
“We just have to own up to it, forget about it, look in the mirror and get ready for tomorrow,” Taormina said. “It’s a good thing we play as many games as we do because we don’t have time to think about all of the negatives. We just go out and try not to do what we did the game before.”
The Crunch (20-11-3-5) are back home tonight against the Utica Comets (17-16-5-1).