By MICHAEL FORNABAIO
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — When time finally ran out Monday, Steve Regier pumped his fists to the ceiling and raised his stick as if he’d scored a goal.
He and his teammates reached a goal, rather than scored one, at the end of a 3-2 win over the Binghamton Senators. Bridgeport won seven of its last nine games in 2007 to get back to points-.500 (16-16-1-0) for the first time since Nov. 4, when it was 5-5.
“We’ve been talking about getting back to .500 for a while now. It’s been a big goal for us,” Regier said.
Regier said the celebration was more over the kind of game it was, a battle in which Jeff Tambellini’s goal with 11:53 to go broke a tie.
“Those are the most rewarding,” Regier said. “Every guy puts his heart on the line.”
That’s how the Sound Tigers have done it since bottoming out two and a half weeks ago at Providence.
Monday, they pressured Binghamton relentlessly in the first period to build a 2-0 lead. The Senators picked their game up in the second period and tied it in the third, but Bridgeport came back with a good finish.
“I thought we played a really good game,” coach Jack Capuano said. “They’re a good hockey team. Obviously, in the second, the momentum swung. They came out and did what they had to do. But I like the way we’ve been competing, the way we’re playing, win or lose.”
The line of Regier, Jeremy Colliton and Darryl Bootland stole momentum back with about 13 minutes to go in the third.
That unit kept the puck deep in Binghamton’s end for about a minute, working hard along the boards and making the Senators’ defense work harder.
“They played a heck of a game,” Regier said about Bootland and Colliton. “I thought they were our two top players. They did a lot of little things. They didn’t get a point, put they did a lot of unsung-hero-type things.”
One shift later, Tambellini, Frans Nielsen and Sean Bentivoglio did the same thing to the Senators, forcing a turnover, and Tambellini put a one-timer off the crossbar and in off Nielsen’s centering pass.
Hours after the AHL named him its Player of the Week, Tambellini notched his second four-game goal-scoring streak of the month. He has six goals in the past four games and 12 goals in the past nine; his 19 goals overall are tied for second-most in the league.
Bridgeport held on through a late penalty kill and some crazy bounces around Mike Morrison’s net. Morrison stopped 33 saves to earn his 10th win in front of a sellout crowd of 4,710 at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
“It’s just a tough place to play on the road,” Tambellini said. “We did a good job keeping the puck in their end a little bit. … To get two points out of this barn is huge.”
Part of Bridgeport’s early success was that all four lines got involved and into the flow of the game right away. That included the third line, centered by Trevor Smith with Ryan Kinasewich and Tyler Haskins on the wings.
They combined to make it 2-0 with 3:11 left in the first. Haskins forced a Geoff Waugh turnover at the Binghamton blue line; Smith came up the left wing and blasted the puck off the right post and in.
“I felt great out there. I felt a lot more confident,” said Smith, who played his most-involved game since coming back up from Utah (ECHL) last week. “I got the puck on my stick. I skated with it.”
Kip Brennan almost capitalized on a Matt Kinch turnover — it was as if the defenseman heard the big forward coming — on the third shift of the game.
Two shifts later, Nielsen blocked a Lawrence Nycholat shot, came up the right wing on a two-on-one, deked out defenseman Brian Lee and wristed a shot over Brian Elliott’s blocker.
Nielsen, playing his best hockey of the season in both ends of the ice, has seven points in the past four games and 11 points in the past nine.
Bridgeport had several chances to increase its lead, but couldn’t. A couple of open-net chances bounced and stayed out. The Sound Tigers thought they had scored one at 7:12 of the second, when the red light went on after Dustin Kohn put a shot on net that Elliott apparently smothered on the goal line.
Just 44 seconds later, Binghamton turned the game around when Waugh came up the right wing and snapped a short-side shot past Morrison. Tyler Donati tied it on a power play 5:13 into the third, knocking in the ricochet after Josh Hennessy hit a post.
1) FRANS NIELSEN, BRIDGEPORT — Just keeps going: a goal and an assist.
2) JEFF TAMBELLINI, BRIDGEPORT — Player of the week; winner of the game.
3) TYLER DONATI, BINGHAMTON — Around the net, scored the tying goal.
UNSUNG HERO — Trevor Smith played his best AHL game of the season.
UP NEXT — Friday at Norfolk, 7:15 p.m.
Bridgeport 2 0 1–3
Binghamton 0 1 1–2
First Period — 1, Bridgeport, Nielsen 5, 3:03. 2, Bridgeport, Smith 1, 16:49. Penalties — Kinch, Bin (hooking), 5:07; Haskins, Bpt (hooking), 8:45; Colliton, Bpt (hooking), 9:51; Kinch, Bin (hooking), 17:40.
Second Period — 3, Binghamton, Waugh 2, 7:56. Penalties — Kudelka, Bin (holding), 2:20; Wotton, Bpt (slashing), 4:34; Nikulin, Bin (cross-checking), 10:01; Tambellini, Bpt (holding), 6:37; Dimitrakos, Bin (cross-checking), 17:50.
Third Period — 4, Binghamton, Donati 6 (Hennessy, Dimitrakos), 5:13 (pp). 5, Bridgeport, Tambellini 19 (Nielsen), 8:07. Penalties — Kinch, Bin (interference), 1:18; Fata, Bpt (hooking), 3:47; Carkner, Bin (elbowing), 15:21; Colliton, Bpt (interference), 16:11.
Shots on goal — Bridgeport 18-12-7–37. Binghamton 10-13-12–35.
Power play opportunities — Bridgeport 0 of 7, Binghamton 1 of 6.
Goaltenders — Bridgeport, Morrison 10-7-0 (35 shots-33 saves). Binghamton, Elliott 6-8-0 (37-34).
Attendance — 4,710. Referee — Banfield. Linesmen — Everett, Petrus.
(Welcome to those referred from print! And now back to your regularly scheduled blog.)