Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas –
Joakim Lindstrom notched a goal and two assists, Geoff Platt added a goal and a helper and Tomas Popperle made 18 saves, as the Syracuse Crunch knocked off the Houston Aeros 4-1 in front of a season-high 8,440 fans on Curtis Murphy Bobblehead Night at Toyota Center. Alexandre Picard and Jeff Szwez each scored a goal for Syracuse (12-21-1-3), which is in last place in the North Division but is 2-0-0-1 in its last three games.
Joel Ward scored a goal and Josh Harding
made 25 stops for Houston (15-18-0-4), which fell six points behind fifth-place Milwaukee.
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Syracuse’s Janne Hauhtonen had a clear breakaway out of the penalty box four minutes in, but shot well wide.
Harding was brilliant with 13:30 remaining, kicking out a shot from the point, then covering up Szwez’ point-blank attempt at a rebound.
Popperle made a great blocker save with nine minutes left in the first. Benoit Pouliot hit Matt Foy with a 2-on-1 pass up the right wing side, and Foy fired but Popperle stopped the puck.
Harding’s best stop of the opening period was a glove snare of Ryan Caldwell’s left point blast on the power play, with Alexandre Picard providing a screen in the low slot.
The Aeros threw their weight around late in the first, with Platt taking the worst of it twice. First, Ryan Stokes blasted him into the boards, and a shift later, Murphy leveled Platt with a hip check.
Syracuse’s Olivier Labelle walked through traffic in the final minute but slid a wraparound attempt just wide of the far post.
Platt toke over sole possession of the Crunch’s goal race with his 16th, at 1:51 of the second. Lindstrom got loose on the left doorstep and slid a cross-crease pass to a waiting and unmarked Platt, who rifled the puck into the top corner.
Aeros rookie defenseman Chris Ovington beat Popperle five hole 4:30 into the second, but the goalie got enough of the puck to have it rest in the crease until a defenseman saved the day.
Szwez extended Syracuse’s advantage to 2-0 – the Aeros’ fifth 2-0 deficit in eight games – with 7:18 gone in the middle period. Filip Novak kept the puck in at the center point and flipped the puck to Szwez in the right circle. Szwez ripped a one-timer in the perfect spot, beating Harding high blocker side for his fourth goal of the season.
Syracuse got 19 seconds of a 5-on-3 midway through the second, but couldn’t find the net for its third goal.
Popperle wasn’t tested much in the second period, but he was good with 4:34 remaining on Houston’s fourth shot of the period. Mattias Weinhandl cut in on the right wing side and floated a pass for Peter Olvecky, whose low redirection was covered up by Popperle.
Popperle was brilliant 90 seconds later with Houston on the power play. Weinhandl found himself all alone in front and deked Popperle to the ground. But Popperle recovered, diving far to his left to make a sprawling save.
Syracuse’s Adam Pineault made a nice play to break up another Foy-Pouliot 2-on-1 with 1:45 remaining in the second. With Foy sliding the puck back to Pouliot on the left wing, Pineault reached out with his stick and pushed the puck just wide of the net.
Popperle got lucky seconds into the third period, when Bryan Lundbohm couldn’t connect on a rebound attempt sitting on the deck.
Picard’s seventh goal – on the power play – put Syracuse up 3-0 just 2:58 into the third. With Pouliot in the penalty box, Platt hit Picard from the right side, and Picard poked the puck into an open net.
Ward got the Aeros within 3-1 with 4:46 gone in the third, when Ward deflected Erik Reitz’ blast from the right point by Popperle for his fourth goal of the season.
Harding was unbelievable with 12:57 remaining, stopping Syracuse three times on a 3-on-1.
Aeros veteran defenseman Peter Ratchuk took a roughing penalty with 10:54 left, stunting the Aeros’ comeback plans. Ratchuk then got called for holding with 5:16 remaining.
The second minor resulted in Lindstrom’s goal – his fifth – to finish the scoring with 4:05 left.
Houston went 0-for-3 on the power play, while Syracuse finished 2-for-7. Notes:Not dressing for the Aeros were Tony Quesada, Shawn Belle, Ryan Hamilton, Josh Olson and Joey Tetarenko. Dieter Kochan backed up Harding after missing the last 29 games due to a wrist injury. Kochan is the only Aeros goalie other than Harding to win a game this season, making two saves in relief in a 4-3 shootout win at Grand Rapids on October 21. The Aeros reassigned goalie Miroslav Kopriva to ECHL Texas and recalled goalie Tony Quesada from the Wildcatters. Aeros winger Roman Voloshenko had his five-game point streak snapped. Houston had won each of the last three meetings with Syracuse. The Aeros fell to 3-2-0-0 all-time versus the Crunch. Syracuse picked up its first win against the West Division (1-5-0-1). The Aeros are 1-12-0-1 when scoring two or fewer goals. They are 14-6-0-3 when scoring three or more.