SOUND TIGERS EVEN SERIES WITH B-SENS
Hunter breaks 2-2 tie with :21.4 to play,
knots series at two games a piece
BRIDGEPORT, CT â¢ The American Hockey Leagueâs 2001-02 Regular Season
Champion and Eastern Conference Playoff Champion Bridgeport Sound
Tigers, top affiliate of the National Hockey Leagueâs New York
Islanders, beat the Binghamton Senators 3-2 at home Friday to even
their best-of-seven, playoff series at two games apiece. Trent Hunter
broke a 2-2 tie with his team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs
with :21.4 left in the third period.
Binghamton opened the scoring as Dennis Bonvie scored his second goal
of the postseason 11:12 into the game on assists from Brad Smyth and
Dean Melanson, but the Sound Tigers tied the game at 1-1 3:24 later
as Hunter and Goaltender Rick DiPietro set up Justin Mapletoftâs
first goal of the playoffs.
Alan Letang, who missed game three Wednesday with a knee injury, gave
the Sound Tigers their first lead at 2-1 with his first goal of the
postseason, a four-on-four tally, 1:38 into the second period off
assists by Mapletoft and
Justin Papineau, but Binghamton tied the game at 2-2 :53 into the
third period on Antoine Vermetteâs first goal of the playoffs off
another assist by Smyth.
The Sound Tigers received a scare late in the third period when
veteran Defenseman Brandon Smith left the game with a knee injury,
but they were able re-focus.
Eric Manlow dumped the puck into the Binghamton zone heading into the
final half minute of regulation, and Martin Chabada pushed it through
the slot where it popped into mid-air. Hunter then swatted the hip-
high puck past Senatorsâ Goaltender Ray Emery for the winning tally.
The Sound Tigers were 0 for 7 on the power play, 4 for 4 on the
penalty kill and outshot Binghamton 29-25. DiPietro made 23 saves
while Emery made 26 for the Senators. Hunter was the first star of
the game, Mapletoft the second, and DiPietro the third.
Game five will be tomorrow in Binghamton at 7:05 p.m. Game six will
be Monday in Bridgeport at 7:05 p.m. Game seven, if necessary, will
be in Binghamton Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.
Bridgeport gets even
Last-minute goal beats B-Senators
BY SCOTT LAUBER
Press & Sun-Bulletin
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Now, the Binghamton Senators know how it feels.
Having experienced some late-game magic of their own in these American Hockey League playoffs, the Senators got a dose of late-game heartbreak Friday night against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Trent Hunter's goal with 21.4 seconds remaining sparked the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to a 3-2 victory before an announced 3,948 at the Arena at Harbor Yard and squared the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at two games apiece.
"I think we're all pretty (ticked) off right now," Senators goalie Ray Emery said before boarding the team bus for an overnight ride home. "I think we deserved a better fate that this."
There's no time for the Senators to brood. The puck drops on Game 5 at 7:05 tonight at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
"We didn't play poorly," said left winger Chris Bala, whose game-winning goal with 16 seconds left in Game 2 made him a playoff hero. "It's a best-of-three series now. We feel confident at home. We just need to take care of business there."
The Senators were angry that an out-of-position linesman prevented them from clearing the puck in the seconds leading to Hunter's goal. Bridgeport winger Martin Chabada held the puck in the Senators' zone and floated a knuckler that Hunter deflected past Emery.
Until then, it seemed Game 4 was destined for overtime. Senators rookie center Antoine Vermette's first goal in 12 games tied the score 53 seconds into the third period.
"It's definitely not a good feeling (to lose)," Vermette said. "But in hockey, you have to be at a certain level where you're not too high when you win, not too low when you lose."
Senators coach John Paddock took the loss in stride.
"There's nothing to feel (bad about)," Paddock said. "We felt we deserved the chance to be going into overtime, but we're still very confident in ourselves as a team."
Once again, the outcome might've been different for the Senators had they taken advantage on the power play. They had four man-advantage chances, one in the third period, and didn't score, extending their power-play futility to 0-for-23 in this series and 2-for-36 overall in the postseason.
Both teams said scoring the first goal would be paramount to winning, and the Sound Tigers thought they had done it 44 seconds into the game when Jeff Hamilton's power-play slap shot from the right circle smacked off the post behind Emery, who was shaky most of the night.
Senators enforcer Dennis Bonvie, the object of loathing for several Sound Tigers fans who raised signs disparaging him, did find the back of the net at 11:12 of the first period by snapping a wrist shot through a screen in front of Bridgeport goalie Rick DiPietro.
But the Sound Tigers came right back at 14:36, taking advantage of a poor Senators' line change. With defenseman Julien Vauclair caught on the left side of the ice, Justin Mapletoft zoomed down the right wing and buried a wrist shot that hit Emery and trickled over the goal line.
Hamilton's first-period close call was answered by Senators right wing Joe Murphy who, 30 seconds into the second, ripped a shot off DiPietro's crossbar.
The near-miss proved to be a two-goal swing only 68 seconds later when Sound Tigers defenseman Alan Letang crept in from the blue line, took a drop pass from Mapletoft and flipped a low shot to the far side of the net that slipped past Emery's left skate.
After scoring 34 goals during the regular season, Vermette hadn't gotten any pucks across the goal line since March 23. That slump ended 53 seconds into the third period when he took a feed from Brad Smyth and dumped it into the right side of DiPietro's net.
Bridgeport almost got the lead right back two minutes later when fourth-line center Blaine Down stormed down the right side and ringed a wrister off the crossbar and again on the power play two minutes after that when Hamilton hit the post a second time.
"Playing (tonight) is good because it'll help us get back on our feet," said Emery after Hunter's goal. "It doesn't give us time to think about this."
Bridgeport forward denies spit incident
BY SCOTT LAUBER
Press & Sun-Bulletin
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Maybe now, the alleged spitting incident is finally over.
Responding to the Binghamton Senators' accusations that he spit on, or in the direction of, center Bob Wren midway through the third period of Game 3 here Wednesday night, Bridgeport Sound Tigers forward Justin Papineau denied his involvement in the incident.
"If that's what they want to say, they can say it, but I didn't spit," he told the Connecticut Post before Game 4 Friday night. "That doesn't show any character or anything."
Senators coach John Paddock said the root of the 192 third-period penalty minutes in Game 3 was a spitting incident that occurred near the benches with about 10 minutes remaining in the Sound Tigers' 5-0 win. He refused to identify the offender, but several Senators indicated it was Papineau.
Wren, an undersized center not noted for dropping his gloves, instigated a fight with Papineau with 3:13 left in the game. From there, emotions boiled over with the teams combining for 138 penalty minutes in the final 2:13.
AHL president David Andrews attended the game but issued no disciplinary action before Game 4.
Watching the morning skate from the stands with an ice pack taped to his right hip or upper thigh, Senators winger Josh Langfeld had the look of a man who'd be sitting out Game 4.
But when he left the Arena at Harbor Yard, Langfeld greeted reporters with an optimistic, "See you later," and sure enough, when the puck dropped seven hours later, there he was, skating in his normal position alongside Wren and right winger Joe Murphy.
Another banged-up player in uniform was Sound Tigers defenseman Alan Letang (knee), who returned after missing Game 3. He was injured late in the second period of Game 2 last Sunday night.
IT COULD BE WORSE
There's a team alive in the AHL playoffs with a power play worse than the Senators', which was 2-for-32 entering Game 4. Hamilton took a 2-for-34 power play into the third game of its series with Manitoba.
Some of the Senators' struggles could be attributed to the Sound Tigers' penalty-killing unit, the AHL's best in the regular season. Through its first six playoff games, Bridgeport had killed 26 of 27 power plays.
"The guys have really bought into the system," Sound Tigers coach Steve Stirling said. "We've used primarily six forwards and four 'D', and by now, they know each others' tendencies real well."
Paddock placed Joey Tetarenko back at his usual right wing position, and rookie defenseman Christoph Schubert returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Wednesday night. The Senators' healthy scratches were wingers Brian McGrattan and Alexandre Giroux. ...
Both teams bussed overnight to Binghamton for tonight's Game 5. Should the series go seven games, Friday night started a stretch of four games in five nights sandwiched between two more trips between the cities, which are about 220 miles apart.
Emery feels weight of playoff pressures
BY SCOTT LAUBER
Press & Sun-Bulletin
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- He's typically as relaxed as goalies come, but after a practice here earlier this week, Binghamton Senators rookie Ray Emery admitted he's feeling some extra pressure in the playoffs.
It started showing Friday night.
Emery allowed two soft goals in the first two periods and had to be bailed out by his posts and crossbar three times in the Senators' 3-2 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I definitely didn't play the way I wanted to play," said Emery, who still gave the Senators a shot to win until 21.4 seconds remained in regulation and Trent Hunter deflected Martin Chabada's knuckling floater for the game-winning goal.
"I'm capable of playing a lot better."
In the other net, New York Islanders top prospect Rick DiPietro was solid again for Bridgeport. Fresh off a 29-save performance here in Game 3, he stopped 23 more shots in Game 4 and has made 84 saves on 89 shots in three playoff starts.
Emery's adventures started in the game's first minute when Sound Tigers center Jeff Hamilton ripped a shot from the right circle past him and off the post. Hamilton would hit another post early in the third period, just minutes after Blaine Down ringed a shot off the crossbar on a breakaway.
"As long as it doesn't go in the net, they can hit all the posts they want," Emery said, insisting those shots didn't shake his confidence.
But with the Senators leading 1-0 late in the first period and defenseman Julien Vauclair caught in a sloppy line change, Emery allowed a suspect goal when Justin Mapletoft's wrister ticked off his arm and trickled into the net.
Bridgeport took a 2-1 lead 98 seconds into the second period on another shot Emery probably should've had. Sound Tigers defenseman Alan Letang crept in from the blue line, took a drop pass from Mapletoft and deposited it into the far side of the net.
Senators coach John Paddock defended his rookie goalie, citing his eight third-period saves and his strong play during a Sound Tigers power play midway through the second period.
By MICHAEL FORNABAIO
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Binghamton Senators are even now in the Eastern Conference semifinals, in more ways than one.
Trent Hunter deflected Martin Chabada's shot over Ray Emery's right shoulder with 21.4 seconds left gave the Sound Tigers a 3-2 win in Game 4 of the best-of-7 series, knotting the playoff tilt at 2-2. Game 5 is tonight at 7:05 in Binghamton, N.Y.
The last-minute win echoed Binghamton's Game 2 victory, when Chris Bala scored with 16.0 seconds on the clock at Binghamton Sunday.
"Our goal was to come back here and win two games, and we were able to do that," Hunter said.
The Senators said a linesman got in the way on the play as Hunter deked around Bala in the right circle. Chabada picked up the puck and shot on goal, where Hunter tapped it up and under the crossbar in front of 3,948 fans at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
"I tried to hit the net. The (defense) was behind us," Chabada said. "I didn't see how Hunter hit the puck. I just saw the puck go in. It was a surprise for me." He paused and added, "A surprise for Emery, also."
Defenseman Brandon Smith left the game with 6:33 remaining after being tied up from behind chasing the puck into the defensive zone. He stayed on the bench after being helped there, putting little pressure on his left leg. Bridgeport coach Steve Stirling said Smith would be evaluated today.
Had Binghamton managed a second goal in the third period, after Antoine Vermette's first of the playoffs tied the game 53 seconds in, this could have been the most frustrating loss in Sound Tigers history.
Bridgeport went 0-for-7 on the power play, including one second-period advantage where chances too numerous to count went either wide, off the outside of the net or through the crease. Jeff Hamilton could have had a couple of goals himself there, and he had hit a post on a power play in the game's first minute.
The Sound Tigers penalty killers remained perfect in the series, though, killing all four Binghamton chances to improve to 23-for-23 in the series. Binghamton is 2-for-36 on the power play in their seven playoff games overall.
Rick DiPietro made 23 saves for the Sound Tigers and assisted on Justin Mapletoft's goal, Bridgeport's first of the night, when the goalie hit Trent Hunter at the red line to catch Binghamton in a change.
Alan Letang, back from missing one game with a sprained knee, scored 1:38 into the second period on a give-and-go with Justin Mapletoft to give Bridgeport a 2-1 lead.
Binghamton's Dennis Bonvie, sarcastically serenaded by the crowd every time he stepped on the ice, scored at 11:12 of the first period, following up his own blocked shot from the left circle. Mapletoft answered at 14:36.
Jody Robinson dressed as a seventh defenseman for Bridgeport but didn't play. Konstantin Kalmikov was a healthy scratch, and Matt Higgins (sore hip) remained out of the lineup.
Don't mess with a Tiger
sports sat post
The playoff beards are out in full force. So are the playoff attitudes
that "all-for-one-and-one-for-all" mentality that becomes so vital when the postseason rolls around and when every shift, every body check, every goal can rally a team to do things it never thought possible.
Like dropping the gloves.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are not a team of Popeyes eating ripped-open cans of spinach, but they are not a bunch of 98-pound weaklings getting sand kicked in their faces by the brawny beach bully, either. And when the Binghamton Senators tried to pull the old tough-guy routine in Game 3 on Wednesday night at the Arena at Harbor Yard, the Sound Tigers responded with their fists and punched themselves right back into this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
It was the guys doing the pounding who have gotten this team electrified and surging after Friday night's final-minute 3-2 victory in Game 4, which pulled the series even at two games each and guaranteed a return trip to the Arena for Game 6 on Monday night.
Blaine Down. Mike Souza. Konstanin Kalimkov. These players are not known for dropping the gloves, but they did just that as the Sound Tigers stood toe-to-toe with Binghamton and sent a very clear message: Don't mess with us.
"When it started to get rough, we started working together. It's always nice when the guys help each other out," said right winger/enforcer Eric Godard, who took part in one of the five third period fights in Game 3. "We all stuck together, and it said a lot for the character of the team, how tight we've become both on the ice and in the locker room. It gave us a good feeling. Things are starting to click."
Godard was sporting a large black-and-blue welt under his left eye, thanks to a punch from Binghamton's Joey Tetarenko in his third-period fight while Down, Kalmikov, Justin Papineau and Alain Nasreddine also received fighting majors.
Did watching those guys fight light a fire under the Sound Tigers' collective backsides? You bet.
"No question, it did. Anytime you see the obvious, the Godards, the Nasreddines, the (Ray) Schultzs, those are the obvious (guys) but the less than the obvious (guys)
the Downs and the Souzas and Kalmikovs the other night
standing up not only for themselves but for their teammates," Bridgeport coach Steve Stirling said. "That says a lot, and it sends a wonderful message to the rest of the team that you can't do that stuff. And whoever it takes to stand in there, whether or not you get the (blank) beat out of you or not, you do it. Hell, Down's not a fighter, Papineau's not a fighter, Kalmikov's not a fighter, but they went out there and stuck up for themselves and for the team. It sends the message that we're in this together win, lose or draw."
Heading into the postseason, the Sound Tigers ranked 25th out of 28 teams in penalty minutes (1,350), averaging just 16.9 minutes a game. The Sound Tigers also were ranked 25th in major penalties, with just 58 this season. Binghamton was seventh, averaging 22.4 minutes per game (1,789) and were called for 85 majors.
And when you're not known as a physical team, the opposition immediately tries to test your limits. The Manchester Monarchs tried it in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, nearly starting a brawl in the warmups before Game 2. It was a tactic that carried them to an early two-goal lead in that game before the Sound Tigers fought back, won the game and eventually swept the series in three games.
The Senators tried to do the same thing before Game 1 last Saturday night in Binghamton. When the Sound Tigers had scored five times to put Game 3 in their pockets, Binghamton dropped the gloves and decided to see what kind of team Bridgeport was.
They found out.
"Manchester tried it .... didn't work .... Binghamton tried it ... didn't work ... You gotta do what you gotta do," Stirling said of the physical play. "Our guys won't back down. We are not the most physical team, but when push comes to shove, we won't back down."
And they haven't. That's why this series is all even.