TORONTO – Toronto Marlies coach Greg Gilbert was pleased with his team’s effort in its first game of the American Hockey League season – though he would have been happier with a win.
Denis Hamel scored the deciding goal in the shootout to lead the visiting Binghamton Senators past the Marlies 2-1 in the season opener for both teams.
Hamel, the fifth Senators shooter in the shootout, skated in on Justin Pogge and faked a slapshot before deking to his left and sliding the puck past the Marlies goalie in front of 5,157 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
Centre Josh Hennessy scored for the Senators in regulation time, while centre Tim Stapleton, 25, who finished second in Finnish Elite League scoring last season, had the lone goal for the Marlies.
“It was a real good effort,” said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert on his team’s performance. “We have a few areas to clean up and we need to work on our system … but it’s our first game of the season. Overall, I thought we played a solid game.”
Stapleton and Binghamton’s Brendan Bell also scored in the shootout before Hamel ended the game.
“(Shootouts are) good when you win, but tough when you lose,” said Marlies captain Ben Ondrus.
Netminder Brian Elliot made 33 saves in regulation and overtime to pace the Senators. Elliott, a 23-year-old native of Newmarket, Ont., a suburb of Toronto, was especially sharp in the first period when the Marlies had four power plays and outshot Binghamton 15-6.
Elliott turned aside every chance and Hennessy staked the Sens to a 1-0 lead midway through the opening period. The Sens goalie also denied Kyle Rogers on a breakaway early in the third period after the Marlies winger stepped out of the penalty box, picked up a loose puck and swooped in on the Binghamton net. Rogers tried to go high to the glove side, but Elliott was equal to the task.
“The past couple of years, we’ve had a lot of goalies come into this building and stone us,” Gilbert said. “It’s happened quite a bit. But we have to find a way to fight through it and get shots on net and create scoring chances.”
Pogge, who takes over as the full-time starter after sharing the load last season, was impressive himself in stopping 29 of 30 shots. His best save came midway through the third period, with the score tied 1-1, when he shot out his right leg to block Shawn Weller’s low shot from the slot.
“He made the big saves when we needed them,” Gilbert said.
The Marlies are the top affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, while Binghamton is the feeder team of the Ottawa Senators. The Marlies captured the North Division with a 50-21-9 record last season and won two playoff rounds before losing to the Chicago Wolves, the eventual Calder Cup champions, in the Western Conference semifinal.
The Senators went 34-32-14 and failed to qualify for the post-season last year.
Binghamton led 1-0 after the first period and through 40 minutes.
Toronto, which opened the 2007-08 season on a 13-game unbeaten streak, was 0-for-7 on the power play while Binghamton went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
The Senators broke the ice midway through the opening frame when Hennessy gained the offensive zone, skated through the slot and whipped a wrist shot past Pogge’s glove hand at 8:59.
Binghamton’s lead stood up until early in the third period when Stapleton’s low wrist shot from the right faceoff circle beat Elliott to the stick side.
The Marlies travel to Lake Erie to face the Monsters on Sunday.