BINGHAMTON — It was an uphill battle from the start for the Utica Comets on Saturday.
As Comets coach Trent Cull has said: There will be games like this for a young team.
The Binghamton Devils scored four times in the first 10 minutes and handed the Comets a 5-1 setback in the first regular-season meeting between the North Division teams at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Arena.
Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 30 shots and five players finished with a goal to help the Devils (7-6-2-0, 16 points) win for the fourth time in the last six games.
It was a struggle for the Comets (6-8-1-0, fourth place in the North), who continue to be hindered by injuries and NHL call-ups. On Saturday, forwards Cam Darcy (undisclosed) and Vincent Arseneau (hand) joined the list of players out of the lineup after being injured the night before. Before the game, the Comets signed forward Alex Kile to a professional tryout contract from ECHL Maine, where he had a team-best nine points.
Lukas Jasek scored his second goal in as many days for the Comets, who are are 3-6-1-0 in the last 10 games. Rookie goaltender Connor LaCouvee finished with 19 saves on 20 shots after replacing Ivan Kulbakov, whose fifth consecutive start lasted less than 10 minutes. Kulbakov is 5-3-1 this season.
Binghamton got off to a flying start against the flat-footed Comets in the first period, building a 4-0 lead over a span of 7:13.
Nick Lappin gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 1:43 in before Marian Studenic and Kurtis Gabriel scored 1:20 apart minutes later to end the night early for Kulbakov, who finished with eight saves on 11 shots.
However, the first shot faced by LaCouvee — making his first AHL appearance — dribbled past him, giving the Devils a 4-0 lead with 11:30 left in the first.
The Comets got pressure in the second half of the period and got on the board with some nice work by Jasek, Tanner MacMaster and Michael Carcone. On the goal, Carcone sent a short backhand feed from behind the net to MacMaster, who was stopped in front and Jasek cleaned up the puck for his fourth of the season with 2:58 left.
Utica had the edge in the second period, when the Comets had three power plays. However, the Devils extended the lead to 5-1 on Ryan Schmelzer’s goal from in tight less after a fortunate bounce off an official less than five minutes into the period.
Devils 5, Comets 1
Utica;1;0;0 - 1
Binghamton;4;1;0 - 5
1st Period: 1, Binghamton, Lappin 8 (Rooney, Pietila), 1:17. 2, Binghamton, Studenic 7 (Zacha), 6:09. 3, Binghamton, Gabriel 1 (Sharangovich, Gignac), 7:29. 4, Binghamton, Ramage 2 (Zacha, Quenneville), 8:29. 5, Utica, Jasek 4 (MacMaster, Carcone), 17:02. Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period: 6, Binghamton, Schmelzer 2 (McLeod), 4:11. Penalties-Quenneville Bng (slashing), 0:32; Hammond Bng (holding), 9:14; Gryba Bng (interference), 11:05.
3rd Period: No Scoring.Penalties-Schmelzer Bng (high-sticking), 6:23; MacEwen Uti (tripping), 6:45; Gryba Bng (cross-checking), 12:04; Jasek Uti (slashing), 18:16.
Shots on Goal-Utica 10-12-9-31. Binghamton 16-4-12-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Utica 0 / 5; Binghamton 0 / 2.
Goalies-Utica, Kulbakov 5-4-1 (11 shots-8 saves); LaCouvee 0-0-0 (21 shots-19 saves). Binghamton, Blackwood 2-2-1 (31 shots-30 saves).
Referees-Kenny Anderson (66), Mitch Dunning (43).
Linesmen-Neil Frederickson (68), J.P. Waleski (14).