MONTREAL – Sergei Kostitsyn loved his homecoming game at the Bell Centre – even if it wasn’t all that welcoming.
Ryan Keller and Jason Bailey scored as the Binghamton Senators handed the Hamilton Bulldogs their first regulation loss of the season, 2-1 on Friday night.
The Bell Centre crowd of 14,702 greeted Kostitsyn with lots of boos and some cheering, and the 22-year-old native of Belarus said it suited him just fine.
“That was nice for me,” Kostitsyn said with a grin. “Merci beaucoup.”
Kostitsyn initially refused to report with Hamilton when he was cut from the Canadiens coming out of training camp, and he left the team again after a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Moose on Oct. 20 only to re-join the Bulldogs following a meeting in Montreal with Habs GM Bob Gainey.
After first demanding that the Canadiens trade him, Kostitsyn told reporters Friday morning that he was committed to working hard in Hamilton in the hopes of getting a call to return to Montreal on a more full-time basis.
Since returning from his second team-imposed suspension, Kostitsyn has gone four straight games without getting so much as a shot on goal, though he’s managed two assists over that span.
Rookie Bulldogs coach Guy Boucher said Kostitsyn had some difficult circumstances to deal with Friday night.
“It wasn’t easy for him tonight, everyone was here to see him and he’s not stupid, he knew that,” Boucher said. “We want him to use his speed a lot more than his hands. Often times, he slows the play down so he can make a play, and we want him to do the opposite.”
Mike Brodeur followed up a shutout of the Albany River Rats on Wednesday by making 36 saves for the Senators (5-5-2), winners of two straight and three of their last four.
“Definitely. My confidence is up there now,” said Brodeur, 26. “We’re playing as a team right now, playing stronger. Our team effort is there. We’re not giving up any second chances, which has helped my job.”
Prized Montreal Canadiens defence prospect P.K. Subban scored his first career goal as a professional and Curtis Sanford made 24 saves in a losing effort for the Bulldogs (7-1-4).
Subban’s goal led the Bell Centre crowd to begin chanting his name.
“It was great to get my first professional goal, and to get it here is obviously a great feeling,” Subban said. “I can guarantee you that if ever get a chance to play in front of this crowd for a longer period again, I’ll never have a flat game.”
The game began with two fights in a six-second span early in the first, but settled down afterwards as the teams went back and forth trading scoring chances.
It was the Baby Sens who cashed in first when Keller scored his team-leading seventh of the season while on the power play at 15:59 of the first.
Bailey, 22, made it 2-0 Binghamton at 8:02 of the second, fishing the puck out of Yannick Weber’s skates and squeaking one through Sanford’s legs for his first career AHL goal in his seventh game.
The Senators had a steady parade of players heading to the penalty box throughout the game, and it finally cost them at 8:39 of the third when Subban teed up a pass from Shawn Belle and one-timed it through Brodeur’s legs to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Bulldogs only produced on one of eight chances in the game, and Boucher said playing in an NHL arena in front of a big crowd may have contributed to that poor success rate.
“We hit three posts on the power play and had a lot of chances for rebounds, so we did some good things,” Boucher said. “But what I was asking my guys to do on the power play, it took until the second period for us to do it.”
Brodeur made a series of big saves in the final minute, none bigger than one on Subban with the Hamilton net empty and 5.7 seconds to play where he stopped the puck on the goal-line.
Notes: The Bulldogs and Baby Sens will complete the second leg of the home-and-home with a game Sunday at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. … GM Bryan Murray and most of the Ottawa Senators scouting staff were in attendance.