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Sens Down Rats In Overtime 5-4

Julien Vaulcair’s record-tying four-point night and Peter Smrek’s goal 1:43 into overtime lifted the Binghamton Senators to a 5-4 win over the Albany River Rats in front of 3,073 fans at Pepsi Arena.

Smrek’s goal capped off what became a three-on-one rush into the Rats zone that was led by Cory Pecker and Denis Hamel.

With Pecker carrying the puck down the right wing and Hamel serving a decoy, Pecker dropped a beautiful feed to the trailing Smrek cutting into the zone.

Smrek gave the Sens their only lead of the night as he strode into the pass and ripped a low shot through the pads of Rats goaltender Matus Kostar (27 saves) for Binghamton’s third sudden death win of the season and their first on the road.

Vauclair started the game-winning rush at his own blue line and drew an assist on the Smrek tally, his fourth point of the game to match the franchise mark for points in a game set previously by Brad Smyth (12/20/02), Greg Watson (10/18/03) and Mike Brown (2/15/04).

An overtime win was an unlikely finish for the visitors, who engaged Albany in what was perhaps one of the ugliest periods of hockey in the opening twenty minutes as the clubs combined for six goals in playing to a 3-3 standoff through one period.

The Rats grabbed a 2-0 lead just 5:16 into the game on goals from Tuomas Pihlman and Joe Hulbig as Ray Emery (30 saves) showed a little rust playing in his first contest off of his five-game suspension.

Vauclair cut that lead in half with his third goal in the last five games, a drive from forty feet out that Kostur mishandled off the webbing of his glove hand and let behind him at the 7:00 mark.

Albany regained their two-goal edge 3:25 later when Illka Pikkarainen blasted a right wing shot past a screened Emery to make it 3-1.

The Sens caught a break as Ryan Murphy high-sticked Vaulcair to put the Sens on the power play.  Just forty-nine seconds later, Mike Matteucci was whistled for tripping to give Binghamton a two-skater advantage for 1:12.

Denis Hamel needed just nine seconds to make the Rats pay and pinpoint passing around the perimeter from Vauclair and Pecker landed the puck on Hamel’s blade.

Hamel calmly wristed his team-leading 26th goal of the year past Kostur on the short side drawing the Sens to within 3-2 at 11:59.

Watson completed the first period comeback when he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and caught the Albany defense flatfooted.

Watson drove down the slot and hammered home his fourth of the season with 1:29 left in the opening period to draw the Sens even at 3-3, and in the process, extending his point streak to four games.

The clubs traded second period markers as Craig Darby regained the Rats lead with his team-high 21st of the year at 8:49 before a Charlie Stephens deflection slipped past Kostur just under seven minutes later to knot the score once again.

A scoreless third period set the stage for Smrek’s overtime heroics to give Binghamton a critical two points in the East Division race.

With Wilkes-Barre posting a 5-4 come-from-behind win in Hershey, the Penguins are now tied for third place with Norfolk (71 points each) as Binghamton (69 points) drew to within one point of fifth place Hershey (70 points).

Unbeaten in their last two games (1-0-1), the Senators have five days off before heading back into the stretch run with a Friday night tilt versus Albany at 7:05 p.m. at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

Before the game, three new members (Jon Smith, Bob Sullivan, and Peter Laviolette) will be inducted into the Binghamton Hockey Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers visit the Arena for the final time in the regular season in a 7:05 p.m. tilt with the Zooperstars on hand to entertain the crowd throughout the night.

Tickets remain for both nights (850 for Friday and 500 for Saturday) and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Arena box office, the Center Ice Team Shop, the Sens executive office – 3rd floor of the Arena, and by calling the Sens Hotline at 722-SENS (7367).


[View Box Score]

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