Kucherov, Crunch Rally Past Americans in Shootout, 5-4

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Led by Nikita Kucherov's second-straight four-point night, the Syracuse Crunch rallied past the Rochester Americans in the shootout, 5-4, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.

Kucherov, the American Hockey League's rookie of the month, registered a pair of goals and assists, as well as a shootout goal in the Crunch's fifth-straight win. The Russian leads the league with 10 goals.

"It's great, it felt good," Kucherov said of the award. "I just need to keep working."

"He just makes a lot of plays that other guys don't," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "He sees the ice so well."

Vladislav Namestnikov added two assists and the game-tying goal with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. Nikita Nesterov chipped in a goal and an assist, Dmitry Korobov had two assists and JT Brown added one helper.

The Americans opened the scoring with a power play goal by Luke Adam less than four minutes into the game, but Kucherov evened the score less than a minute later on a breakaway.

Rochester surged ahead with goals by Jamie Tardif, Brayden McNabb and Kevin Sundher to take a 4-1 lead midway through the second period.

Down by three, Syracuse shifted the momentum with some high-energy shifts. Kucherov netted his second of the game before the second intermission, and the Crunch capitalized on a pair of power plays in the third period to tie the game.

Nesterov found the back of the net with less than eight minutes remaining in the third, and Namestnikov tied it with 2:37 left in regulation.

"(Kucherov) shot the puck, it hit (Brown) in front and it was just laying there," Namestnikov said. "I just saw an opening and put it in."

For Zettler, the difference between the first half of the game and the second was his team's intensity.

"The first 30 minutes, I thought we were casual," Zettler said. "We were losing battles, losing pucks that we shouldn't have. In the third period we went out and actually played like we could play."

Kucherov and Cedric Paquette each scored in the shootout, while goalie Kristers Gudlevskis made four stops on five attempts. The Latvian netminder finished with 29 saves.

"(Gudlevskis) let in four tonight, but I don't know if he had a chance on any of them," Zettler said.

Syracuse (6-2-1-0) looks to keep rolling when it travels to Binghamton Saturday.

"We want to make it six straight, that's for sure," Namestnikov said. "Binghamton is one of our main rivalries, so we're going to go in there with a game plan and try to dictate the first 10 minutes and play our game."

Pictured: Crunch forward Nikita Kucherov looks to pass against the Americans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.