ALBANY, N.Y. (February 25, 2005). If you were looking for a "rematch" of the fight-filled game two weeks earlier between the Albany River Rats and the Binghamton Senators (in which 209 penalty minutes on 39 infractions were assessed), you would have been disappointed tonight in Albany. Only 14 minutes on 7 penalties were registered.
On the other hand, the fans saw a good game in which Ray Emery played exceptionally well to anchor the Senators' 5-3 (including an empty net) victory over the River Rats.
For a brief interval in the first period, fans thought they were witnessing a replay of last Monday's contest in which the Rats and Norfolk Admirals traded goals all night and totaled a dozen lamp-lighting events overall.
Twice tonight, tying or go-ahead goals for Albany were answered within a minute by Binghamton, thanks to the energy of the Jason Spezza line. Spezza, the only AHL All-Star to be penalized during the recent All-Star Classic (hooking or interference on Albany's Zach Parise), opened the scoring for the Senators and was a factor all night. Spezza finished a "back door" play orchestrated by linemate (and rookie of the year candidate) Brandon Bochenski. Though Albany had tried to match forward lines with Binghamton (putting out the Pascal Rheaume-Zach Parise-Ryan Murphy line against the Spezza-Bochenski-Denis Hamel Senators' combination), that was not the case on defense pairings. Spezza took advantage of rookie Rats' defenseman, Teemu Kesa, who went for the puck instead of the man.
After Ahren Nittel tied the contest with a one-timer from the right face-off dot on a power play, it was Brandon Bochenski's turn to beat Kesa, with Spezza setting his teammate up from behind the net.
Albany evened things up on an odd-man rush that displayed Zach Parise's growing confidence and poise. Parise had the puck and cruised up right wing, freezing Emery until a last-second pass to Pascal Rheaume, trailing up left wing, beat the sliding Binghamton goaltender. However, that Albany goal, too, was answered within a minute by the Senators. Antoine Vermette snapped one from between the circles to give the visitors from Binghamton the lead going into first intermission.
Ironically, though the River Rats were widely out-shot in the second (scoreless) period, 13-2, they were not outplayed during the middle frame. The Rats had more scoring chances than shots, with passes or shots picked off at the last second by alert Senators' defensemen, including Brian Pothier. It was Pothier who cushioned the Binghamton lead early in the third period. Gliding up left wing on a power play, he uncorked a shot through a screen from the left face-off dot and struck five-hole paydirt.
The Rats made it interesting late in the game when Pascal Rheaume redirected a pass/shot from Dean McAmmond in the slot just as a delayed penalty (tripping of Zach Parise by a Senator) was being called. The Rheaume goal, his second of the night and 20th of the season, made it a one-goal contest. However, the Senators added an empty-net tally in the final minute to lock up their victory, 5-3.
As a measure of how disciplined the River Rats were tonight, Albany forward Ilkka Pikkarainen, formerly prone to quickly retaliate against provocation, calmly walked away from punches thrown by Jesse Fibiger, after the latter took exception when Pikkarainen tried to poke the puck through Emery's pads on a play with a slow whistle. The restraint by Pikkarainen gave Albany a power play late in the game, but they were unable to convert.
In the final minutes of the game, Albany used four forwards and one defenseman at even strength to generate some offense, but without results on the scoreboard.
The three stars: third, to Brandon Bochenski of Binghamton, with one goal and one assist; second, to Pascal Rheaume of Albany, with two goals and one assist. First star was announced as going to Ray Emery, the Senators' goaltender (21 saves on 24 shots), but Jason Spezza (1G; 1A) actually skated on the ice instead.
Tough luck award goes to Albany defenseman, Teemu Kesa, who was on the ice for all five Binghamton goals (one a power play tally) and, thus, registered a -4 on the plus/minus.
Ari Ahonen took the loss, with 26 saves on 30 shots.