With three straight unanswered goals over the final 22 minutes of regulation, the first-place Rochester Americans (32-16-3-2) flipped a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Monsters (24-23-6-1) Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the two-goal win, the Amerks have collected 23 out of a possible 32 points in their last 16 games and have improved to 25-6-2-3 against Cleveland since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, which includes a 5-1-0-0 mark this season. Rochester has also notched 31 points in its last 23 games dating back to a 4-0 shutout win in Cleveland on Dec. 26 and maintain a three-point lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings.
Zach Redmond, who returned to the lineup after missing the previous 11 games, became the first blueliner in team history to reach the 20-goal mark before adding an assist, while Wayne Simpson and Danny O’Regan each recorded their 18th goals of the season. Taylor Leier booked his 13th tally of campaign to complete the scoring for Rochester, which picked up its third straight win. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood earned his 11th win in the last 14 games and improved to 19-7-2 on the season as he stopped 29 shots on the night to pick up the 100th win of his pro career.
Forwards Dan DeSalvo and Mark Letestu each collected two-assist efforts for Cleveland, which is winless in its last three games, while Paul Bittner and Tommy Cross both lit the lamp in the defeat. Netminder Jean-Francois Berube, who appeared in his Eastern Conference-leading 37th game of the slate, made 29 saves but suffered the loss.
Just 51 seconds after the Monsters took a 2-1 lead late in the second period while on the man-advantage, the Amerks returned the favor as O’Regan was credited with the game-tying goal as he tipped a Redmond shot from the point with 1:42 left in the stanza.
With the tally, Rochester, which owns the seventh-best power-play percentage (20.9%) in the league, has gone 24-for-87 over the last 23 games.
While the teams went into the second intermission tied at 2-2, the Amerks regained the lead at the 6:15 mark of the final frame. Carrying the puck into the offensive zone down the right wing, Remi Elie powered his way towards Berube. As Elie attempted to stuff the puck past the goaltender, it would eventually be knocked into the net by Leier.
Elie was awarded the primary helper, his sixth point (3+3) in the last six games since joining the Amerks, whileAndrew Oglevie also picked up an assist on the marker.
Cleveland nearly tied the contest and forced overtime with under six minutes left in regulation, but Wedgewood stoned Miles Koules on a breakaway to keep it a one-goal game. The Monsters pressed to find the equalizer and pulled Berube for the extra attacker during the final two minutes, but Simpson sealed the 4-2 win as he put the puck into the vacant net from Scott Wilson and Kevin Porter.
“We had a good start to the game,” said Porter. “The first 10 minutes of the first, we played really well as we had a lot of shots, good chances and kept it simple. While they tied the game, I thought we battled the whole 60 minutes and came out with two points.”
Early in the first period as the puck made its way around the boards, Redmond, who already set a new single-season franchise record for goals by a defenseman, wasted little time as turned and flung it to the net. The shot handcuffed Berube and it found the back of the net a mere 2:45 into the contest.
“Tonight’s game was a good game to get back into the lineup,” said Redmond, who had a his second eight-shot game of the season. “With all the power-plays, that makes it easy to get a feel for the puck and get going again. It was a good team win and the feeling in the room is pretty good right now.”
Later in the opening period, the Monsters drew a pair of penalties in succession and capitalized on the second infraction to even the game at 1-1 before the end of end of the first frame.
Much similar to the first period, Cleveland scored inside the final three minutes of stanza to take a 2-1 lead at the 17:29 mark while on the man-advantage. The Amerks, however, drew their own penalty and tied the game with 1:42 left in the stanza as O’Regan tipped a Redmond blast from atop the point. Victor Olofsson snapped a four-game scoring drought as he picked up the secondary helper.
After the clubs entered the second intermission knotted up at 2-2, Rochester tallied a pair during the final period to record the 4-2 victory.
“I liked our first period,” Amerks head coach Chris Taylor said. “After we got a little undisciplined and gave up a couple power-play goals, I liked how we had to fight our way back. I thought we did a good job even when we were not at our best to come away with two points.”
The Amerks conclude the final full week of the month on Friday, Feb. 22 when they visit the Utica Comets at 7:00 p.m. before hosting the Belleville Senators at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday on home ice.