On the night before the Habs were to host the Ottawa Senators the warm up act was the two teams' farm teams facing off at the Bell Centre. The Bulldogs are off to a great start this season and are quite a bit ahead of Binghamton in the standings, so most were expecting a cake walk and while Hamilton did end up winning 5-2 the game was much closer than the score would lead you to believe.
Binghamton was beginning its run of three games in three nights with this game. After their number one goaltender Barry Brust had started six games in a row Swedish rookie Robin Lehner was getting the start in nets. Let me just tell you he did not play like he was nervous at all. Maybe it was because he had played almost 5 minutes in a Montreal versus Ottawa game at the Bell Centre earlier this year. Maybe it was the experience he gained backing up Brian Elliot for most of the month of October with Pascal Leclaire out with an injury in Ottawa. Whatever the reason Lehner kept the game close despite his team being wildly outshot by Hamilton.
Buoyed by the over 13,000 fans in the stands the Bulldogs came out quickly in the 1st period and outshot the Senators 16-1 (which tied a Bulldogs record for least shots allowed against in a period) with Binghamton registering their only shot with two minutes left in the period. Lehner made some great saves and did not melt under the constant barrage. Due to his stellar play the Bulldogs despite totally outplaying their opponents only came out of the period with a 1-0 lead. To top it off, the goal was a flukey one in that Mathieu Carle took a shot from the right point that bounced once on the ice on its way towards the net then bounced right over Lehner's right shoulder.
On only their third shot of the night the Senators tied the score at 3:51 of the 2nd period. Erik Condra found Jim O'Brien in front of Curtis Sanford and he made no mistake one-timing it past the Bulldogs' goalie. Very quickly after Hamilton reasserted themselves and Ryan White, the last cut by the Montreal Canadiens, scored his first goal of the season. White's goal, while not only being I'm sure a huge relief to him, was the type that Habs' coach Jacques Martin will love seeing as White scored it by going to the front of the net, collecting a rebound and burying it.
Though the Bulldogs continued outshooting the visitors by a large margin they could not score again to make it a two goal lead. The slim one goal margin seemed to give the Senators a lift starting off the 3rd period and they started taking the play to the Bulldogs. Very early in the 3rd period the Senators once again knotted the score. This time it was two ex-Bulldogs who made their former team pay. Andre Benoit, who jumped on a loose puck in front of Sanford, scored the goal with a helper going to Corey Locke.
Bulldogs' fans were a little nervous at points during the early part of the 3rd period as momentum seem to swing towards the Senators. They seemed to have the jump, were first to the puck and has several chances on Sanford. But it was another Bulldog who has been trying his darndest to get the attention of Habs' coach Martin who put the home side up for good.
Yannick Weber is the leading goal scorer for the Bulldogs so far this season. After the Canadiens' preseason training camp he was sent back down again to the AHL, but Weber was sent down with loads of positive feedback. Showing that he is playing with plenty of confidence, Weber scored another (his 7th of the season) at the 12:25 mark of the 3rd. We all are aware that Weber, though undersized, has plenty of offensive upside, but what I noticed on this night was how he not only has a heavy shot he is also accurate. Weber is dangerous from the point because he gets a high percentage of his shots on net. This was especially obvious on the goal where, off a scramble in the Binghamton end, he was able to get his shot from the point through all the bodies in front and on target. The rocket eluded Lehner as he could not see it due to the traffic in front of him.
The score stayed that way until with just over one minute remaining in the game when going for broke the Senators pulled Lehner, but it worked out in Hamilton's favour as rookie Andreas Engqvist scored an empty net goal. I'm sure after the goal that Engqvist thanked his centre man J.T. Wyman as he did all the work on the goal as he even completed a pass to Engqvist while down on the ice. Centreman David Desharnais scored the final goal into an empty net and while shorthanded after Andrew Conboy was assessed a penalty with less than 30 seconds left in the game.
That the Senators were even in this game was a credit to their goaltender, who was making his first AHL start in over a month. Lehner was tested often and the goals he did let in he had no chance on. An interesting fact is that this was Hamilton's first victory against Binghamton at the Bell Centre as the first three times they have met in this building Binghamton has emerged the victors.
This won't be the only opportunity that hockey fans in Montreal will have to see the Hamilton Bulldogs play here as they will play one more regular season game (this time versus the Philadelphia Flyers farm team) in February against the Adirondack Phantoms.
-On-Ice Officials: Referee: Jean Hebert
Linesmen: Jameel Chaudry and Kevin Hastings
-Goals: 1st Period:
11:45- Hamilton – Mathieu Carle assisted by Aaron Palushaj
3:51- Binghamton – Jim O'Brien assisted by Erik Condra and Colin Greening
6:54 – Hamilton – Ryan White assisted by Ben Maxwell and Alex Henry
1:25 – Binghamton – (pp) Andre Benoit assisted by Corey Locke and Bobby Butler
12:25 – Hamilton – Yannick Weber assisted by Aaron Palushaj and Frederic St. Denis
19:28 – Hamilton – (en) Andreas Engqvist assisted by J.T. Wyman and Andrew Conboy
19:53 – Hamilton – (en + sh) David Desharnais unassisted
-Shots on Goal: Hamilton: 39
-3 Stars: 1) Aaron Palushaj – Hamilton
2) Yanick Weber – Hamilton
3) Andre Benoit – Binghamton
-Final Score: Hamilton: 5