Crunch Lose to Senators on Fluke Goal, 2-1

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It was a play Mark Barberio had done many times before, but it was an unfamiliar result.

The Syracuse Crunch defenseman accepted the reverse pass from his parter, Jared Nightingale, and looked to make a pass to Alex Killorn in front of his team's net. Instead of its intended target, the puck appeared to deflect off goaltender Dustin Tokarski's stick, and found its way into the back of the Crunch net.

The fluke goal 1:11 into the final frame proved to be the difference, as Syracuse snapped a three-game winning streak with a 2-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

"I've scored in my own net before, but not like that," Barberio said. "Not from behind the net. I've had them go off my skate and stuff. It's too bad for that to be the game-winner. Again, I think that's what we deserve. We didn't come ready to play."

The Crunch started off the game on the wrong foot.

Syracuse failed to clear the puck when it had a chance and was pinned in its zone. A little over a minute into the game, Tyler Eckford opened the scoring when his slap shot beat Tokarski.

Barberio again shouldered a part of the blame, citing a lack of communication in the early-going. The goal swung the momentum squarely in the favor of the Senators.

"We dug our own grave and we didn't get out of it," Barberio said.

After the eventual game-winner, which was also credited to Eckford, Syracuse continued to struggle to solve Binghamton goalie Robin Lehner.

With a power play six minutes into the third period, the Crunch finally broke through when Richard Panik snapped a Tyler Johnson pass past the Senators netminder for the lone Crunch goal. Barberio was also credited with an assist.

"(Johnson) faked a shot and passed it to me, and I tried to shoot it right away," Panik said.

With the crowd back in the game and the ice seemingly tilted in its favor, Syracuse poured on the pressure in the remaining 13-plus minutes.

"I felt like the team had the momentum back, so I thought we were going to get them back," Panik said. The Slovakian forward, who is riding an eight-game point streak, tallied the overtime winner in a 6-5 come-from-behind victory in Binghamton earlier this season.

"We were buzzing the whole period in their end after that," Barberio said. "We couldn't seem to buy one. We had a lot of chances, but they didn't go in."

With Tokarski pulled and Binghamton down a man, the Crunch called a timeout to regroup for the final 28.5 seconds. Panik recalled the team's plan for its last minute push.

"We have to take the puck to the net and try to score a dirty goal," he said. "We tried. We had a couple shots from the point, but we couldn't find a way to get it in the net."

The Senators clogged the middle of the ice, and made it hard for the Crunch to get a shot on net. Despite a wild final half-minute, Syracuse couldn't net the tying goal.

Lehner made 30 saves, while Tokarski turned away 22 at the other end of the ice.

East Division-leading Syracuse (10-3-1-1) has a chance to quickly wash the bitter taste out of its mouth. The team travels to Albany on Saturday, and follows it up a game in Worcester Sunday.

With a 7-0-0-1 record on the road, Barberio and the Crunch are hoping for a familiar set of results.

"The good thing is we have another two games in the next two days," he said. "We have a chance to rebound really fast and forget about this one."

Pictured: Crunch forward Alex Killorn maneuvers in the Senators zone at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.