Ondrej Palat scored three goals, including two in the first period, and Cedrick Desjardins stopped 26 of 27 shots as the Syracuse Crunch defeated the Rochester Americans 4-1 Tuesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The matchup was the first of two meetings this week between the intrastate rivals, who will face off again on Saturday, March 2 at the War Memorial at Oncenter in Syracuse.
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Tyler Johnson assisted on two goals and Kyle Wilson also found the back of the net for Syracuse, which extended its winning streak to a season-high eight games as the Crunch improved to 34-14-2-4 and entered into a two-way tie with the Texas Stars for first place in the American Hockey League’s overall standings. Desjardins, making his fourth consecutive start for the Crunch, improved to 4-0-0 with Syracuse after being acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a trade last week with the Montreal Canadiens.
Nick Tarnasky notched Rochester’s lone goal and David Leggio made 26 saves for the Amerks, who have now lost three straight and five of their last six games, falling to 27-21-2-1 on the season.
Palat staked the Crunch to a 2-0 lead, scoring back-to-back goals in a span of 4:03, with his first coming midway through the opening frame as he converted Johnson’s centering feed to open the scoring for Syracuse. Johnson entered the Amerks’ zone along the right wing boards, skated wide of his defender and slid a pass through the goal-mouth to Palat, who deposited it to the back of net before Leggio could get across his crease.
Palat’s second of the game and ninth of the season came on his very next shift, however this time on the power-play, as his attempted pass caromed off the skate of a Rochester defenseman and dribbled over the line to give the Crunch a two-goal cushion at 14:20. After collecting Brett Connolly’s rebound in the low slot, Palat spun around looking to set up Johnson breaking in from the right side, but his intended pass detoured through the legs of Leggio and inside the near post. Former Amerk Evan Oberg also earned an assist on the goal, helping Syracuse take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
After a scoreless second period, Palat made good on the hat trick, following up on his own rebound at 15:35 of the final frame to make it a 3-0 game in favor of the Crunch. J.T. Wyman and Johnson assisted on the tally, putting Johnson atop the AHL scoring lead with a league-high 53 points (28+25) on the season.
Tarnasky brought the Amerks within a pair at 18:25 on the power-play, denying Desjardins’ bid for a third consecutive shutout, but Wilson would add an empty-netter 28 seconds later to secure the 4-1 win for the Crunch.
The Amerks close out the month of February on Wednesday, Feb. 27 as they head across the border for a North Division showdown with the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the seventh of 10 get-togethers between the two teams this season and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.