(Rochester, NY) … Lawrence Pilut scored the game-tying goal in the third period and then set up the game-winner with only two seconds remaining in regulation to cap a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win for the Rochester Americans (20-6-2-2) over the Belleville Senators (18-12-1-0) Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the victory, the Amerks became just the fourth AHL team and first from the North Division to reach the 20-win mark this season while improving to 15-3-1-1 over their last 20 games dating back to Nov. 1, earning points in 17 games over that span, and holding a three-point cushion atop the Division standings. Additionally, Rochester has picked up points in 22 of the last 27 contests overall, going 18-5-2-2, while also earning 43 out of a possible 60 points through its first 30 contests of the season.
It only took 30 games for Rochester to reach the 20-win mark this season, the team’s fewest since the 2006-07 Amerks needed 27 games.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Pilut tallied his third three-point outing of the season with a goal and a pair of assists while forward Taylor Leier scored in the final seconds in regulation for the third time in last two contests. Zach Redmond opened the scoring for Rochester with his fifth marker of the season while Eric Cornel rounded out the night with his sixth of slate.
Goaltender Jonas Johansson (10-2-2) earned his eighth straight victory as he made 33 saves. Dating back to Nov. 13, the third-year netminder boasts a perfect 8-0-0 record with two shutouts, a 1.74 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage while allowing just two goals or less in six consecutive starts over that span.
Vitaly Abramov, Joseph LaBate and Jordan Murray all scored for Belleville, which came into the matchup riding a franchise-best 10-game road win streak dating back to Nov. 8. Netminder Filip Gustavsson (7-5-1) stopped 27 shots but suffered the loss.
WATCH: LAWRENCE PILUT POST-GAME
Entering the third period down by a goal, the Amerks found the equalizer with 7:51 left in regulation as Pilut scooped up the loose puck atop the Senators zone and flung it towards the cage. With screens out in front of the goaltender being provided by Dalton Smith and Brett Murray, the puck made its way to the top left corner of the net for Pilut’s fourth of the season.
“I didn’t like how we played the first two periods,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “I thought they (Belleville) outskated us and dominated a lot of game for the first 40 minutes. We talked about that during the intermission then came out and played our best period in the last four or five games and we got rewarded for playing the right way.”
“We got the offense going in the third period and we were skating, hitting and getting into the dirty areas,” said Pilut when talking about the difference in the third period as opposed to the first two. “We knew we just had to go out and play with poise and speed like we know we can.”
WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER POST-GAME
Rochester continued to use the season-high crowd of 8,053 to its advantage late in regulation as Casey Mittelstadt drew a high-sticking infraction with 37 seconds left in the contest. Much like earlier in the frame, Pilut had the puck just inside the far blueline. As the clock was dwindling down, the former SHL Defenseman of the Year unleashed a shot through traffic that glanced off a falling Leier and into the net with two seconds to spare.
“I first got hit first (by one of their skaters) and then my hair was in my eyes,” described Leier when talking about his game-winning goal. “My helmet was kind of out of whack as I went into the slot. As a defenseman pushed on my back, my stick broke and all I saw was the puck coming towards my face.”
“I ducked out of the way and I just felt the puck hit my left shoulder and I wasn’t sure if it went into the net and I then heard the horn,” Leier added. “Sometimes luck happens like that, but it was a big goal for our team.”
WATCH: SCOTT WILSON POST-GAME
While Pilut earned the primary assist on the power-play marker, Mittelstadt picked up the secondary helper, his first-career point as an Amerk.
“Casey played well tonight,” explained Taylor. “He had a lot of good looks and he drew us the power-play at the end of the game. Casey had a couple shots that he just missed the net, but overall he had a good night.”
The first period began with the two North Division teams trading power-play goals before the 5:00 mark and they went into the intermission even at one.
Four minutes into the second stanza, Sean Malone sent Scott Wilson and Cornel into the Belleville zone on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush. Wilson an Cornel exchanged a give-and-go before the latter tapped his sixth of the season just inside the right post to give the Amerks a 2-1 lead.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
“Wilson played awesome tonight,” Taylor pointed out. “His forechecking, his penalty-killing. He did a lot of great things and I believe it was his best game as an Amerk. He drove pucks wide and it was good to have him back in the lineup as he brought a lot to the Cornel and Malone line.”
The Amerks advantage did not last as Belleville scored two goals less than five minutes apart to take a 3-2 lead into the final period of play.
Rochester flipped the deficit during the third period as Pilut and Leier both scored to give the Amerks a 4-3 come-from-behind win, its third this season when entering the final 20 minutes when trailing after two periods.
“A lot of guys competed in the third period and I was pleased with that,” Taylor said. “Seeing Pilut get a little gritty in the back-end of the ice was good for our team and I think it is something that he enjoys when he gets under the opponent’s skin.”
The Amerks hit the road for the final two games of the calendar year beginning on Saturday, Dec. 28 with their third trip of the season to the southern tier for a North Division showdown against the Binghamton Devils at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Z. Redmond (5), E. Cornel (6), L. Pilut (4), T. Leier (3 – GWG)
BEL: J. Murray (3), J. LaBate (3), V. Abramov (12)
ROC: J. Johansson – 33/36 (W)
BEL: F. Gustavsson – 27/31 (L)
ROC: PP (2/5) | PK (3/4)
BEL: PP (1/4) | PK (3/5)
1. L. Pilut (ROC)
2. T. Leier (ROC)
3. V. Abramov (BEL)