(Rochester, NY) … In a goaltending duel where both Jonas Johansson of the Rochester Americans (26-13-2-1) and Ivan Kulbakov of the Utica Comets (23-18-3-2) made a career-high in saves, it was the Amerks who erased two third-period deficits before taking down the Comets in a seven-round shootout to pick up a 3-2 victory Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
With tonight’s win, the Amerks, who have collected 17 points in the last 12 games, including seven out of a possible eight in their last four outings, extended their first-place lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Forward Danny O’Regan, who has five goals over his last six games, and defenseman Matt Tennyson each found the back of the net for the Amerks, who have earned at least one point in 12 of the last 14 games with the Comets dating back to the start of last year. Victor Olofsson, C.J. Smith and newcomer Taylor Leier all scored in the shootout tiebreaker while Johansson, who was recalled Thursday from the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL), made an AHL career-high 35 saves to improve to 3-1-0 on the year.
Utica, which entered the matchup with points in four of its last five games, were led offensively by forwards Reid Boucher (2+0) and Tanner Kero (0+2), who both turned in multi-point performances. Kulbakov stopped a personal-best 48 shots only to see his career-long three-game win streak come to an end.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
Trailing 2-1 with just under two minutes left in regulation, Amerks head coach Chris Taylor pulled Johansson for the extra attacker and used his timeout. The decision paid off for Rochester, which leads the AHL with six wins this season when trailing after 40 minutes, as Tennyson hammered a rebound to force overtime with his third goal of the campaign.
“It was an exciting game to be behind the bench,” said Taylor. “The game had everything you could want; big hits, a fight, big saves, goals, overtime and a shootout. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
With an assist on the goal with 1:44 left in regulation, C.J. Smith pushed his career-point streak to eight straight games (5+7) while Olofsson has six points (4+2) over his last five outings.
WATCH: JONAS JOHANSSON POST-GAME
As the game was tied at 2-2, the extra session was needed to determine a winner, but despite the Amerks outshooting the Comets 5-2, the shootout followed.
Rochester elected to shoot first during the skills competition, but after Utica’s first two skaters scored, Johansson recovered to stop the final five shooters. Olofsson and Smith both lit the lamp for the Amerks before Leier capped off the shootout win in the top of the seventh round.
“It wasn’t a team we wanted to give up a point, but we found a way to win,” said Smith. “We were down late but battled back and it was a good win.”
WATCH: C.J. SMITH POST-GAME
The contest was scoreless for nearly the first 25 minutes of play until Boucher potted his first tally of the night and team-leading 18th of the season. Rochester pushed hard to tie the game as they registered 20 shots in the middle frame but trailed 1-0 going into the intermission.
“We were just trading chances at first, but we stuck with it and just kept getting pucks deep and on net,” O’Regan said. “Utica’s goaltender played well, as they have lately, but we are happy to get the two points.”
WATCH: DANNY O'REGAN POST-GAME
As the Amerks tied the game midway through the third period, the Comets countered back less than two minutes after O’Regan’s 17th goal of the campaign to regain a one-goal lead on Boucher’s second of the night.
Tennyson sent the game into the extra frame as he scored at the 18:16 mark of the third to eventually setup Leier’s shootout-clinching goal.
WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER POST-GAME
“It was pretty awesome,” explained Leier. “I didn’t try to think too much as it obviously was an important shot, but I was happy I was the one to take it.”
Rochester travels to the War Memorial Arena on Saturday, Jan. 26 to face the Syracuse Crunch in its final game before the annual All-Star break. Game time is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start and can be heard live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: O’Regan (17), Tennyson (3), Leier (SO GWG)
UTI: Boucher (18, 19)
ROC: Johansson – 35/37 (W)
UTI: Kulbakov – 48/50 (SOL)
ROC: PP (0/3) | PK (4/4)
UTI: PP (0/4) | PK (3/3)
1. Reid Boucher (UTI)
2. Taylor Leier (ROC)
3. Matt Tennyson (ROC)