Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Bears lose late lead, bow to Senators, 3-2 Stunning setback BY KEVIN FREEMAN, Sports Writer
HERSHEY -- Had they not known it already, the Hershey Bears found out that yes, all things even out.
Last weekend at the Giant Center, the Bears fashioned comebacks to come away with a pair of victories. Sunday night, the tables were turned.
Binghamton's Shane Prince scored a power play goal with 3:37 to play in the third period to tie the game at 2 and an unmarked Derek Grant scored from the doorstep with just 2.3 seconds left in regulation to give the Senators a stunning 3-2 win over the Bears.
The loss was the third straight for the Bears, whose hold on seventh place in the conference was weakened with the loss. Hershey is tied with Connecticut with 64 points and Manchester and Albany are right behind with 63.
The Bears must finish in the top eight in the conference to make the playoffs and have 16 games remaining in the regular season but only five at home.
Hershey outshot the Senators 18-9 in the second period and dominated the scoring chances, coming away with two goals to take a 2-1 lead.
But as the third period moved into the final eight minutes, the Bears sagged. A tripping penalty that sent Ryan Stoa to the box with just 3:43 to play in the period didn't help.
Just six seconds after the penalty, Prince was set up in the slot when he got a piece of Brett Lebda's point shot, deflecting it past Hershey goalie Philipp Grubauer (27 saves) to knot the game at 2.
Referee Graham Skilliter gave the Senators another power play minutes later, sending Hershey's Patrick McNeill to the box for slashing. Just as the penalty expired, Grant got loose on the back door and converted Pat Cannone's pass to put the Sens up 3-2 with just 2.3 ticks left.
"We were grinding it out on the forecheck,'' Grant said. "Pat got the puck to me and I had an open net. I didn't want to miss that one.''
The play started with Wacey Hamilton's play in the left corner. Hamilton got the puck to Cannone as the Bears tried to prevent the puck from reaching the slot area.
"Maybe if we would have pressured the puck in the corner a little more, we might have eaten up the final two seconds,'' said Hershey coach Mark French. "We had the slot covered but didn't have enough awareness of Grant on the backdoor.''
Losing by a goal in the final seconds also had French lamenting the second period when the Bears might have scored more than two goals.
"I thought the second period, with the amount of chances we had, it would have been nice to give ourselves a bit more of a cushion,'' he said. "Things switched when we got too protective and stopped making a push (in the third). Then we had the penalties.''
Binghamton, which has beaten Hershey five times in seven games this season, opened the scoring midway through the first period. The Bears were on the power play when Hershey defenseman Dmitry Orlov dove to corral a pass from Jeff Taffe at the top of the Senators' zone.
Orlov, however, couldn't come up with the puck and the Senators' Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Corey Cowick pounced, heading in the other direction on a 2-on-0 break. Pageau finished off the play with the goal, giving Binghamton four shorthanded goals against the Bears this season, two by Pageau.
Hershey had a chance to tie the game later in the period but Sens goalie Marc Cheverie (28 saves) stopped Jon Kalinski on a breakaway.
Hershey got the tying goal early in the second. Cheverie made a save on Stoa's shot, but Stoa recovered the puck and passed it to Peter LeBlanc, who beat Cheverie with a sharp-angle shot.
Hershey went up 2-1 three minutes later when Casey Wellman's wrist shot sailed into the net over Cheverie's glove hand.
Hershey had another power play later in the period and did not score. The closest call was Ryan Potulny's shot that clanged off the post to Cheverie's left.
A week ago, the Bears were basking in the glow of three straight wins. Now, it's three straight losses.
"It stings right now,'' Wellman said. "We have to move past it. We played some good hockey this weekend and it didn't pay off. It's not acceptable so we have to focus on the two games coming up this weekend.''
Notes: The loss was the Bears' first when leading after two periods. They are now 20-1-2-2 in those games. ... Orlov returned to the lineup Saturday night in Norfolk. He was sidelined with an upper body injury for three months. "It was a challenge for him to play in back to back games,'' French said. "I thought he played OK.'' ... Five home games remain, the first of those coming Saturday when the Bears host the Bridgeport at 7 p.m. Hershey hosts the Flyers' AHL team, the Adirondack Phantoms, at 5 p.m. Sunday.