ADIRONDACK 4, WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 2
Back in front of the fans in Philadelphia, goaltender Michael Leighton did not disappoint.
A key cog in the Flyers’ run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Leighton stopped 38 of 40 shots in net as Adirondack doubled up Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 4-2, before a crowd of 18,056 at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday.
The Phantoms beat the AHL’s first-place team despite getting outshot 40-16, and Leighton was a major reason why. The two-time AHL All-Star and former AHL goaltender of the year made 35 of his 40 saves over the final two periods, including 17 in a third frame in which his club surrendered 17 shots to its five.
Leighton collected his second win of the season for Adirondack, which emerged victorious for the first time in five tries against Wilkes-Barre this year (1-4-0-0).
Even with Leighton’s superb effort, the game was deadlocked at 2-2 into the latter stages of the third period before Michael Ryan put the Phantoms on top with just 1:30 left in regulation. Denis Hamel sealed the victory with a last-minute empty-netter.
Adirondack has recovered from a four-game winless skid (0-2-0-2) with back-to-back victories and will host Hamilton in Glens Falls, N.Y., on Saturday.
The crowd of 18,056 was the 10th-largest regular-season gathering in American Hockey League history. Six of the top 10 crowds have been in the Wells Fargo Center.
SPRINGFIELD 6, CHARLOTTE 5
Springfield scored five times in the second period en route to a 6-5 road win over Charlotte on Friday and a split of the teams’ two-game set at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Attendance was 10,317.
Rookie forwards Chris D’Alvise and Tomas Kubalik paced the Falcons’ offense with two goals and an assist apiece, while captain Ben Guite and Maksim Mayorov each chipped in a goal and two helpers to also finish with three points on the night.
Springfield overcame deficits of 2-0 and 4-3 on its way to halting a season-worst four-game regulation losing skid. It marked the Falcons’ first victory since a 3-2 shootout triumph in Worcester on Jan. 9, and their first in regulation since beating these same Checkers 7-3 on Jan. 8.
Falcons goaltender David LeNeveu emerged with the win after making 39 saves on 44 shots between the pipes.
Rookie Zac Dalpe racked up four points (1-3-4) in the losing effort for Charlotte; Oskar Osala scored twice; and the Checkers also got goals from Zach Boychuk (1-1-2), Jacob Micflikier. Jon Matsumoto contributed a pair of assists.
Charlotte has now alternated wins and regulation losses in each of its last eight games.
CHICAGO 4, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Chicago snapped a 1-1 deadlock with a trio of third-period goals and captured a much-needed 4-1 road win over Grand Rapids on Friday in front of 10,261 fans at Van Andel Arena.
The Wolves, who were winless in five straight (0-3-0-2) from Jan. 8-15, have strung together back-to-back victories since and kept pace in the tight West Division postseason race.
With the game tied at one goal apiece, Wolves veteran Darren Haydar scored on the power play 3:087 into the third period to put his club on top for good. Michael Davies added an empty-netter in the closing minute, and Riley Holzapfel scored another empty-net goal with 10 seconds left.
Jamie Johnson initially gave Grand Rapids a 1-0 advantage at 6:05 of the second period, but the Griffins came up short in their bid to win a third straight game for the first time this season.
HAMILTON 7, CONNECTICUT 3
Rookie defenseman Brendon Nash erupted for a goal and three assists and led Hamilton to a 7-3 road victory over Connecticut on Friday in front of 6,018 fans at the XL Center in Hartford.
Nash, whose last goal came way back on Oct. 24 vs. Oklahoma City, snapped that drought when he scored on the power play at 6:02 of the opening period to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 advantage.
After Connecticut stormed back to tie it at 3-3, the Bulldogs took control with four unanswered goals. Ben Maxwell scored twice and added an assist for Hamilton, which also got markers from J.T. Wyman, Aaron Palushaj (1-1-2), Dany Masse, and Hunter Bishop.
Defenseman Kyle Klubertanz racked up three assists for the Bulldogs, who tallied seven goals for a second consecutive game despite the absence of top scorers David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, both on NHL recall to Montreal.
2011 AHL All-Star goaltender Curtis Sanford made 28 saves in net, helping Hamilton to its fourth consecutive victory. It marks the Bulldogs’ longest run since winning five in a row from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5.
HERSHEY 8, ALBANY 3
Hershey matched a season high with eight goals in a game and rolled past visiting Albany by an 8-3 count on Friday in front of 10,205 fans at the Giant Center.
The Bears scored on four of their 10 shots in the opening period, added three goals on 10 shots in the second frame, and never looked back en route to their biggest offensive output since an identical 8-3 triumph over Binghamton on Nov. 14.
Brian Willsie was the member of the Bears to record multiple goals, scoring twice and adding an assist for a three-point night. Steve Pinizzotto (1-2-3) and Kyle Greentree (1-2-3) also had three points, while defenseman Patrick Wellar posted a game-high four points with a goal and three helpers.
Bears goaltender Dany Sabourin (11-9-0) made 34 saves in net and had to be at his best during a third period in which Albany held a 17-5 shots advantage and scored two of its three goals.
Albany has now been outscored 11-3 in back-to-back losses on the heels of a season-best four-game winning streak.
PORTLAND 5, WORCESTER 2
Portland overcame a pair of one-goal deficits before scoring three times in the third period en route to a 5-2 win over visiting Worcester on Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Pirates forward Brian Roloff broke a 2-2 tie 2:55 into the third frame, and Igor Gongalsky provided insurance at the 15:21 mark. Mark Mancari, who had picked up a pair of assists earlier in the contest, sealed the win with an empty-net goal – his 20th marker of the season – with a minute left to play.
The Pirates avenged a 5-3 loss in Worcester on Wednesday and improved to 3-4-0-0 against the Sharks this season. The teams will meet again on Sunday afternoon in central Massachusetts.
NORFOLK 3, BINGHAMTON 2 (SO)
Norfolk converted on each of its first three shootout tries and eked out a 3-2 shootout win over host Binghamton on Friday at the Broome County Arena.
The Senators shot first in the shootout, and opening goals by Ryan Keller and Mike Hoffman were answered by the Admirals’ Johan Harju and Marc-Antoine Pouliot. But after Corey Locke was denied in the third round, Norfolk forward Paul Szczechura scored what turned out to be the clincher.
Szczechura and Matt Fornataro notched the Admirals’ goals in regulation, with Fornataro tying up the game at 2-2 on the power play 7:15 into the third frame.
Norfolk extended its winning streak to a season-high five games and moved four points up on Charlotte for second place in the East Division, nine points back of front-running Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
PROVIDENCE 5, MANCHESTER 2
Rookies Joe Colborne, Jordan Caron, and Maxime Sauve were three of five different Providence skaters to find the back of the net as the Bruins collected a 5-2 win over visiting Manchester in front of 8,489 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday.
Colborne and Caron, each a former first-round draft pick, recorded a goal and an assist apiece, as did Sauve. Kirk MacDonald and veteran Jeremy Reich rounded out the Bruins’ offense, and Zach Hamill – another former first-rounder – contributed a pair of assists.
Goaltender Matt Dalton stopped 26 of 28 shots in net for the Bruins, who have used a season-high four-game winning streak to climb back to the .500 mark overall at 19-19-3-1.
The Monarchs, who wrapped up a grueling nine-game road swing at 4-4-0-1, got goals from Dwight King and Bud Holloway. Manchester returns to the Verizon Wireless Arena for the first time since Dec. 31 on Saturday when its hosts Binghamton.
ROCHESTER 2, SYRACUSE 1
Rochester scored once apiece in the first and second periods, and the two goals were enough for the Amerks to edge the offensively-challenged Syracuse Crunch by a 2-1 count on Friday at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Fenton’s goal proved to be the game-winner after Syracuse finally got on the board with 6:06 gone in the third frame. Patrick Maroon netted the goal for the Crunch, who have lost four straight games and totaled five goals in that span.
Syracuse has gone seven straight contests without scoring more than two goals since a 6-4 loss at Binghamton on Jan. 7.
Rookie goaltender Jacob Markstrom earned the victory with 35 saves in net for the Americans, who ended a season-high six-game winless skid (0-5-1-0).
SAN ANTONIO 7, MILWAUKEE 5
San Antonio, which had totaled just six goals during its season-worst five-game losing skid, torched Milwaukee for seven strikes on Friday in a 7-5 road win at the Bradley Center.
The Rampage broke out of their slump in a major way and pulled back within two points of Milwaukee and Peoria for first place in the West Division. Remarkably, the division’s first seven teams are all separated by just four points.
San Antonio received multiple assists from Andrew Ebbett (0-3-3) and defenseman Nick Ross (0-2-2), and goaltenders Matt Climie (10 saves) and Al Montoya (18 saves) combined for the victory. Montoya received credit for his eight victory (8-8-0) after coming on in relief.
Rookie Blake Geoffrion (1-2-3) and 2011 AHL All-Star Linus Klasen (2-1-3) each had three points for the Admirals, who carried a 4-3 lead into the third period before getting outscored 4-1 in the final 20 minutes.
OKLAHOMA CITY 4, ROCKFORD 3
Colin McDonald added to his career-best season with a pair of goals as Oklahoma City edged host Rockford by a 4-3 count on Friday at the MetroCentre.
McDonald now boasts 22 goals (22-7-29) through 46 games for the Barons in 2010-11 after scoring no more than 12 goals in any of his previous three AHL seasons in the Edmonton Oilers’ organization.
The former second-round draft pick now leads the entire AHL with his 22 goals.
Oklahoma City has now won six of its last seven games (6-1-0-0) to pull within a point of first place in the West Division race. After enjoying Saturday off, the Barons wrap up a seven-game road trip on Sunday at Chicago.
Cam Cunning scored unassisted late in the opening period, and after Manitoba had moved back ahead, Cunning beat Moose rookie goaltender Eddie Lack on a penalty shot attempt with 4:04 to play in the second frame.
Neither side scored in the third period or overtime. Kevin Clark recorded Manitoba’s lone goal of the shootout, but Heat goaltender Leland Irving (18-14-2) stopped the Moose’s other four tries to earn the win after making 24 saves through the first 65 minutes.
Playing the opener of a grueling 10-game road trip which will take them from Winnipeg to Texas to the Midwest to Ontario to New York, the Heat improved to 5-1-0-1 in their last seven contests.
These North Division rivals meet again on Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg in a game which will be nationally televised in Canada on CBC.
HOUSTON 3, TEXAS 1
Houston surrendered the game’s first goal but then scored three straight to emerge with a 3-1 win over visiting Texas on Friday before 6,309 fans at the Toyota Center on Friday night.
The Aeros extended their points streak to six games (5-0-0-1), which matches a season high set from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9 (4-0-0-2). Houston is now just one point back of first-place Peoria and Milwaukee in the incredibly tight West Division race.
Rookie Casey Wellman pulled the Aeros even just over six minutes later, and Houston took the lead for good when Robbie Earl notched a man-advantage marker at 5:05 of the second frame, his eighth goal of the year.
The Aeros nursed that 2-1 lead through the rest of the game until Jon DiSalvatore clinched the win with a last-minute empty-netter in the third frame.
Patrick O’Sullivan chipped in two assists for Houston, and rookie goaltender Matt Hackett (11-10-2) stopped 30 of 31 shots between the pipes.
The Stars fell to 2-4-1-0 in their last seven outings.