LEWISTON — Binghamton set the tone with a pair of goals in the first seven minutes of the game, goaded a recently-undisciplined Portland team into 134 penalty minutes — a franchise record — and crushed comeback thoughts with two goals each in the second and third periods as the Senators skated to a 7-1 win over the Pirates in front of 2,939 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Saturday.
The win is the sixth in eight games for the Senators, who lead the East Division by five points after a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton loss.
“We didn’t play very well (Friday, against Manchester), so we were chomping at the bit to play (Saturday),” Binghamton coach Luke Richardson said. “Portland got our wrath.”
Jim O’Brien led the way for Binghamton (29-14-0-3) with two goals and an assist, while Shane Prince registered four assists, three as the primary helper.
“They were really good, in the first period especially, and that got us off to a good start,” Richardson said.
The Pirates (16-18-2-7) have won just three of their 14 games in 2014, and have been assessed penalties in greater numbers recently. In the past six games, officials have doled out 233 minutes of penalties to Portland skaters.
“It’s frustrating,” Pirates coach Ray Edwards said, searching for words as he looked to the ceiling. “We have to learn from it. That’s all I can say is, we’ve got to figure it out somewhere down the road, otherwise it’s going to be a tough go.”
To that end, Saturday’s game began auspiciously for the Pirates, who took just one penalty for two minutes in the opening frame. Yet they still trailed a speedy Binghamton squad by a pair of goals after a shaky start from keeper Louis Domingue.
“We’ve got to be better in that,” Edwards said. “I didn’t mind our first period, but we’re down 3-1. You need to have some different things happen, maybe, to make it different. But that’s the way it is right now. Every chance seems to be going in, and it’s just been a tough go the last couple of games.”
Asked whether the problems have arisen at forward, defense or goaltending, Edwards said, “It’s everything.”
In the late-going, things got rough. The teams combined for 224 penalty minutes, including four fights in the third period and a handful of misconduct penalties.
“It was a vicious game,” Edwards said. “There was a lot of stuff both ways, so I think that was part of the crazy stuff all around. It was a hard game, and obviously our team is frustrated over the last couple of games. But we have to handle it better.”
“It got a little bit dangerous out there, but that’s what happens, hockey’s such a passionate game,” Richardson said. “We’ve been on the other end of those (lopsided games), and we reacted the same way. You want to make a team pay for coming in here and taking the two points. Physically, you’ve got to make them feel it.”
The Senators wasted little time putting the Pirates in a hole. Chris Wideman pounced on a rebound at the right side of the net 2:27 into the first period to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.
Four minutes later, Binghamton struck again. After goalie Andrew Hammond snuffed out a Portland chance in the Sens’ end, Prince led a charge in the other direction. Playing in his first career American Hockey League game, Danny Hobbs was the beneficiary. He sniped the top, glove-hand corner on a feed across from Prince at 6:27 for a 2-0 Binghamton lead.
“He’s been doing well at our affiliate in Elmira, so it was good to see him do well tonight,” Richardson said.
On the power play, the Pirates cut into the lead at 10:30. After Hammond made a series of solid saves, Portland’s Brandon Yip one-times a feed from Brandon McMillan in the low slot through the keeper’s legs.
“I thought we were in for a battle after they got that goal,” Richardson said.
But the Senators had an answer.
O’Brien rifled a shot from the right hashmarks through a screen on a delayed penalty call at 14:42 to reestablish Binghamton’s two-goal advantage.
In the second, Binghamton pumped its lead up to 5-1 after a disputed goal yielded an additional Binghamton power play, on which the Senators scored.
The disputed goal also brought out some frustration from the Pirates, as Brett Hextall took exception to the goal celebration near the Portland cage. He had words and exchanged blows with Binghamton’s Darren Kramer — twice. The second altercation, after officials had separated the pair, came near the penalty boxes, and drew the ire of Portland forward Kyle Hagel.
Ultimately, Hagel was tossed for being the third man in, Hextall and Kramer were both tossed for the second fight, and the Sens went to work on a power play.
O’Brien earned his second goal of the night with the extra skater on the ice, Prince his fourth assist.
In the third, Binghamton added another, this time from David Dziurzynski, brother of Portland forward Darian Dziurzynski, pushing the Senators’ lead to 6-1, and Mike Hoffman finished things off with his 23rd of the season at 17:09.