Rookie goaltender Eric Hartzell survived an injury scare in the third period to earn his second win and first AHL shutout as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins topped the Binghamton Senators 1-0 on Friday night. The win was a key victory for the Pens in a tight East Division race between the two teams.
At the tail end of the first period, the Penguins were trying to set up a scoring chance with roughly five seconds to go. After passing the puck back and forth and looking for the perfect shot, Brian Gibbons appeared to have beat the buzzer, but the goal was waved off after video review determined the puck went in the net too late.
In the second period, WBS defenseman Brian Dumoulin was called for a high-sticking double minor at 8:06, but the Penguins killed the penalty with the help of a unit that’s ranked seventh in the AHL with an 84.5 percent success rate. The final clear from the Senators zone drew approval from the Pens faithful.
Three minutes later, Harry Zolnierczyk put his ninth goal of the season past Binghamton goaltender Nathan Lawson to give the Pens a 1-0 lead. Zolnierczyk now leads the Penguins in goals scored.
Late in the third period, Hartzell made a save and went down in his crease. He was laying on his left side and initially appeared to have a back injury. However, upon the Pens trainer coming out, Hartzell stood up and skated back and forth to shake it off. The problem seemed to be in his left leg, but he was able to remain in the game and kept his leg stretched out as the Senators took their timeout with a minute left.
On the same play, Philip Samuelsson was called for hooking (time was 16:36 of the third). Binghamton attempted a last rush after its timeout and pulled Lawson for an extra attacker, but it was unable to tie the game late.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took over the East Division lead with a record of 13-5-0-2, while Binghamton falls to 14-6.
After his AHL debut on November 23 against the St. John’s IceCaps, Hartzell explained that he is already living up to the expectations he had for himself this season. One of his quotes could easily be applied to his performance on Friday.
“It was definitely a goal of mine to come in this year and help the team every time I get a chance to go in there. The boys have also done a great job in front of me and made my job a lot easier.”
Penguins goalie Jeff Deslauriers was signed to an AHL contract earlier on Friday. The 29-year-old is in his second stint with WBS, having played with the team during the 2006-07 season. This year, he has a record of 10-4-2 with a .899 save percentage and 2.38 GAA. His 10 wins are first in the league.
Deslauriers credited his performance to his teammates helping him out and his continued development from the time he first suited up in Wilkes-Barre, as noted by WBS beat writer Jonathan Bombulie:
“We sat down as a team before the season and we established some goals and we want to meet them. Everyone’s pushing the right way. I’m feeling good, but I can’t do it on my own. We win games because everyone plays a full 60-minute game.”
The veteran netminder continued, “I know more about what I need to do to get ready. I know there are more games than I’m used to for the last four years, but you want to be put in these situations and you want to perform.”
This was the second game of the season between the Penguins and Senators. On October 25, the Sens were triumphant in Binghamton by a score of 4-3 in the shootout to end WBS’ six-game winning streak to start the season.
Three Stars of the Game
3. Nathan Lawson, Binghamton (25 saves)
2. Harry Zolnierczyk, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (game-winning goal)
1. Eric Hartzell, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (25-save shutout)
The Penguins close out November on Saturday with their fourth game of the month against the Hershey Bears. WBS has won all four games between the two rivals so far.
The Senators, meanwhile, will finish their November schedule with a home game against the IceCaps.
Alison is currently covering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL for The Hockey Writers after writing about the NHL’s New Jersey Devils from 2011-2012. She is currently employed for the fast growing sports website Bleacher Report as a quality editor and hopes to one day have a media relations career with a professional hockey team. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonM_110.