BINGHAMTON 3, WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 0
Binghamton continued its push toward a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 win over league-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday at the Broome County Arena.
Senators rookie goaltender Robin Lehner (8-7-2) turned aside 31 shots to pick up his third shutout of the season and his first victory since a 4-3 overtime win at Adirondack on Feb. 13.
Jim O’Brien had a hand in all three Binghamton goals on the night, scoring one and assisting on the other two for his first three-point effort since tallying a hat trick against Charlotte on Feb. 18.
Binghamton extended its winning streak to four games and moved five points up on Worcester for the Eastern Conference’s crossover playoff spot. The B-Sens are also now just three points back of fourth-place Norfolk in the East Division, though the Admirals hold two games in hand.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton saw its five-game winning streak come to an end. However, with losses by Hershey and Norfolk, the Penguins saw their magic number to clinch the East Division title drop to three points over both of those teams.
CONNECTICUT 3, CHARLOTTE 2 (SO)
Evgeny Grachev converted in the fifth shootout round to send surging Connecticut to a 3-2 come-from-behind win over visiting Charlotte on Friday at the XL Center.
With the victory coupled with Worcester’s loss to Providence, the Whale moved six points up on the Sharks for the Atlantic Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
The Whale looked destined for a regulation loss in this one, trailing 2-0 with less than three minutes left to play. But a pair of defensemen scored 1:13 apart to pull them even, as Pavel Valentenko struck at 17:39 and Stu Bickel followed at the 18:52 mark.
John Mitchell picked up an assist on the game-tying goal and then buried a shootout goal in the first round, setting the stage for Grachev’s decisive tally.
Whale goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris allowed an opening-round goal to rookie Zac Dalpe in the shootout but then turned aside four straight attempts to preserve the victory. Grumet-Morris made 29 saves through the first 65 minutes and improved to 11-3-1 in a Connecticut uniform.
Charlotte heads north for a game in Portland on Saturday before flying home to take on the Admirals on Sunday.
BRIDGEPORT 5, PORTLAND 1
Bridgeport rookie forward Rhett Rakhshani notched his first professional hat trick and led last-place Bridgeport to a 5-1 road win over Atlantic Division-leading Portland on Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
With the three points, Rakhshani (20-34-54) moved into a tie with Portland’s Luke Adam (25-29-54) for the AHL scoring lead among rookies.
Bridgeport goaltender Mikko Koskinen secured the win with 17 saves on 18 shots in net.
Rookie defenseman T.J. Brennan scored for the Pirates, whose four-game points streak (3-0-1-0) came to an end. With Worcester’s loss to Providence, though, Portland’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot was reduced to one.
ADIRONDACK 2, HERSHEY 1
Goaltender Michael Leighton took a shutout into the final 10 minutes of regulation and wound up making 33 saves on 34 shots as Adirondack edged visiting Hershey by a 2-1 count on Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Leighton bounced back from surrendering five goals to Charlotte in his last outing on Tuesday and improved to 10-11-3 in 25 appearances on the season.
Ben Holmstrom and defenseman Cullen Eddy tallied goals for the Phantoms, with Eddy’s goal at 1:35 of the third period standing up to be the game-winner. Tom Sestito picked up the lone helper on that marker.
Brian Willsie put the Bears on the board with 9:46 left in regulation, but Hershey could not tie it up and saw its winless skid reach three games (0-2-1-0).
SYRACUSE 6, ALBANY 2
Syracuse scored twice in each period and rolled to a 6-2 win over visiting Syracuse on Friday night at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Rookie forward Nick Bonino paced the Crunch with a goal and two assists on the night, while Patrick Maroon (1-1-2), John Mitchell (1-1-2), Maxime Macenauer (1-1-2), John Kurtz, and Kyle Palmieri also found the back of the net.
PROVIDENCE 4, WORCESTER 2
Trent Whitfield scored twice and Kirk MacDonald put up a game-high three points (1-2-3) as Providence kept its slim playoff hopes flickering with a 4-2 road win over Worcester on Friday in front of 6,242 fans at the DCU Center.
The Bruins are still eight points back of Worcester for fourth place in the Atlantic Division and 13 points behind Binghamton for the Eastern Conference’s crossover playoff spot with nine games to play. Providence is in Binghamton to battle the Senators on Saturday.
Providence moved to 4-4-1-1 vs. Worcester this season, and the teams will conclude their season series with a home-and-home set next weekend.
Patrick Davis and Benn Ferriero potted goals for the Sharks, who are now five points back of Binghamton for the crossover spot and six points short of third-place Connecticut in the Atlantic Division.
MANCHESTER 4, NORFOLK 0
Dwight King, who entered the night with just one goal in his previous 14 games, scored three times to record a hat trick as Manchester cooled off Norfolk with a 4-0 road win over the Admirals on Friday at the Scope.
King broke a scoreless tie on the power play late in the second period, registered an unassisted goal midway through the third, and completed his hat trick with an empty-netter in the game’s closing minute. He recorded his 22nd, 23rd, and 24th goals of the season.
Manchester moved within one point of first-place Portland in the Atlantic Division, although the Pirates still hold four games in hand down the stretch.
The Admirals, who entered the night with the AHL’s second-ranked offense (3.36 goals per game), were blanked for just the third time this season. Norfolk’s six-game points streak (5-0-0-1) also came to an end.
LAKE ERIE 3, ROCHESTER 2 (OT)
Greg Mauldin capped off a three-point effort with the game-winning goal at 4:27 of overtime, lifting red-hot Lake Erie to a 3-2 road win over Rochester on Friday at the Blue Cross Arena.
Mauldin and Ben Walter each registered a goal and two assists for the Monsters (39-25-3-5, 86 points), who extended their franchise-record winning streak to seven games and opened up a four-point lead on Manitoba atop the North Division.
Lake Erie, which missed the playoffs in each of its first three years in the AHL, is now 18-4-0-1 in its last 23 games.
MILWAUKEE 4, CHICAGO 2
Rookie forward Gabriel Bourque posted a goal and an assist as Milwaukee doubled up visiting Chicago by a 4-2 count on Friday night in front of 7,366 fans at the Bradley Center.
The triumph enabled the Admirals (39-19-5-8, 91 points) to maintain a one-point edge on Houston for first place in the West Division, with three games in hand on the Aeros.
Milwaukee collected its first home-ice win over Chicago since a 4-1 victory on Nov. 7, having dropped two straight meetings at the Bradley Center since then.
Rookie Ryan Garbutt and Spencer Machacek found the back of the net for the Wolves, who fell percentage points back of San Antonio for what is currently a crossover playoff spot in the Western Conference.
ROCKFORD 4, HAMILTON 3 (OT)
Rockford coughed up a 3-1 lead in the third-period, but Jeff Taffe made sure the night ended on a good note as he buried his team-high 25th goal of the season at 1:46 of overtime to send the IceHogs to a 4-3 win over visiting Hamilton at the MetroCentre on Friday.
Peter LeBlanc earned the lone assist on Taffe’s decisive goal, which was his just his second game-winner out of those 25 goals overall.
Defenseman Neil Petruic initially gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead 5:52 into the game, but Rockford scored the game’s next three goals to take a 3-1 advantage.
Nigel Dawes brought the Bulldogs within 3-2 with his 34th goal of the season at the 14:09 mark, and Andreas Engqvist tied it up just 43 seconds later. That pair of players had just been returned to Hamilton by parent-club Montreal on Thursday.
IceHogs goaltender Hannu Toivonen emerged with the win after making 28 saves on 31 shots.
With the point earned, Hamilton (36-26-2-6, 80 points) moved into a three-way tie for third place in the North Division along with Toronto and Grand Rapids. The Bulldogs are percentage points ahead by virtue of having played three fewer games than both the Marlies and Griffins.
SAN ANTONIO 4, PEORIA 2
Alexandre Picard fired a game-high seven shots on goal and converted two of them, leading San Antonio to a critical 4-2 road win over Peoria at Carver Arena on Friday.
Picard registered his first two-goal game since Dec. 19 for the Rampage, who snapped a four-game winless skid (0-3-0-1) and moved percentage points ahead of the Rivermen and Chicago for the Western Conference’s crossover playoff spot.
Mathieu Beaudoin notched a goal and an assist in the winning effort, and Bracken Kearns rounded out San Antonio’s offense. Viktor Tikhonov chipped in two helpers, as the Rampage finished 2-for-6 on the power play and received a shorthanded tally from Kearns.
Rampage goaltender Matt Climie (25-18-2) secured the win with 18 saves in net.
MANITOBA 3, ABBOTSFORD 2 (SO)
Manitoba buried three of its four shootout attempts and opened up a two-game set against Abbotsford with a 3-2 win over its division rival on Friday before 8,726 fans at the MTS Centre.
Moose forwards Sergei Shirokov, Garth Murray, and Bill Sweatt tallied shootout goals, and rookie goaltender Eddie Lack (25-19-3) stopped three straight Abbotsford attempts after making a season-high 45 saves over the first 65 minutes.
Manitoba (39-27-1-5, 84 points) remained two points back of first-place Lake Erie in the North Division and four points ahead of the three-team logjam which is tied for third place.
The Moose and Heat will enjoy Saturday off before colliding again on Sunday afternoon in a game which will be nationally televised on CBC in Canada and NHL Network in the United States.
TEXAS 5, GRAND RAPIDS 3
Texas fell into a 3-0 hole by the game’s midpoint but came off the mat to score five unanswered goals and take a 5-3 win over visiting Grand Rapids on Friday at the Cedar Park Center.
Colton Sceviour paced the Stars offensively with two goals and an assist, and Texas also got goals from Greg Rallo (1-1-2), Aaron Gagnon, and Mathieu Tousignant. Defenseman Maxime Fortunus chipped in two assists on the night.
Stars rookie goaltender Richard Bachman (25-16-5) recovered to pick up the victory in net, finishing with 17 saves on 20 shots.
The Stars (38-24-4-6, 86 points) extended their winning streak to three games and opened up a four-point lead on Oklahoma City for third place in the West Division. Texas is also just four points shy of second-place Houston and holds two games in hand.
The Griffins and Stars will do battle again on Saturday night in Cedar Park.
HOUSTON 4, OKLAHOMA CITY 1
Houston captain Jon DiSalvatore added to his career-high total with a pair of goals as the Aeros cruised past visiting Oklahoma City by a 4-1 count on Friday at the Toyota Center.
Barons sniper Alexandre Giroux netted his 30th goal of the season – the seventh straight season he’s reached that milestone – on the power play 3:34 into the game, but DiSalvatore responded with a man-advantage marker of his own just 1:10 later.
After a scoreless second period, DiSalvatore struck on the power play again midway through the third period for his 25th goal of the season, with Wellman earning his second assist of the night to complete a three-point effort.
Houston, which will host Oklahoma City again on Saturday and Sunday nights, remained one point back of Milwaukee for first place in the West Division race.