WILKES-BARRE, PA– The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins needed something good to happen. Since their 12-game point streak ended on November 24th, the Penguins were 3-4-2 and treading water. Something had to change.
Enter Michael Leighton.
The 36-year-old veteran goaltender had arrived from the Phoenix organization in a trade earlier in the week and looked to provide stability for the Penguins between the pipes.On Friday night versus the struggling Binghamton Devils, he got it done.
Leighton made 28 saves with Jarrett Burton and Teddy Blueger each scoring twice to lead Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to a come from behind victory at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Things started swimmingly for the Penguins, as they jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first eight-plus minutes. Colin Smith won a board battle behind the net and the puck came to Adam Johnson. Johnson made a nice pass to the slot and found Blueger, who put the puck past Ken Appleby just 4:19 into the contest.
Burton then deflected a Kevin Czuczman point shot into the net almost four minutes later, and Binghamton seemed lost, managing only two shots on Leighton in that time. However, the Devils rattled home three goals in the next 12 minutes to change the game.
John Quenneville lasered a shot over Leighton’s glove at 12:37. Nick Lappin converted a drop pass from Kevin Rooney to the side of the net 3:04 later. Finally, with 46 seconds left in the period, Michael Latta converted a shorthanded two on one with Tim Kennedy that left the crowd stunned and the visitors with the lead.
The Penguins had an excellent chance to tie the game in the opening minute of the middle stanza, but Adam Johnson was stopped by Appleby on a breakaway after the Devils had a failed on man rush.
The rough stuff picked up, too. Patrick McGrath fought Ben Thomson early in the period, and there were a combined 15 minutes of penalties, but the score still saw the Devils with the lead headed to the third.
In the third, the teams traded chances, and it looked like the Devils were headed for victory, when Jarrett Burton tied the game on the strangest goal you will possibly ever see. Tied up in the corner with Jan Mandat, Burton flipped the puck roughly 10 feet into the air. Everyone on the ice seemed to lose track of where it was.
Suddenly, the puck comes down, rolls off the Binghamton netminder and into the cage. Assists on the highly unusual play went to Cody Wydo and Frank Corrado.
There was a scary moment late in regulation, as Lappin appeared to catch a rut in the ice and went down awkwardly in front of the Binghamton bench. He went straight down the tunnel and did not return.
In overtime, Binghamton had two great chances to score, thanks to some poor defensive work. In the final minute, Quenneville whiffed on a shot after a failed Penguins clear. Czuczman would find Jean-Sebastien Dea streaking up the wing, and he fired a pass to the goal mouth that Blueger would redirect into the net to win the game.
Notes: Forward Christian Thomas continues to be on Canada’s Olympic Radar, as he was named to their 20-man Spengler Cup roster. The tournament starts December 26th and ends December 31st in Davos, Switzerland.
3) WBS-Michael Leighton (28 Saves)
2) WBS-Jarrett Burton (Two Goals)
1) WBS-Teddy Blueger Two Goals, including the OT Game Winner)
Up Next: There will be little time to enjoy the win, as the Pens host the rival Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday. Faceoff is set for 5:05.