HOUSTON, Texas - Kirby Law posted a goal and three assists, Roman Voloshenko scored two power-play goals and Josh Harding finished with 38 saves to move into third place on Houston’s all-time victories list, as the Aeros defeated the Rochester Americans 5-2 at Blue Cross Arena at War Memorial. Patrick O’Sullivan scored with 0.3 seconds left in the first period and Bryan Lundbohm added an empty-net goal for Houston (18-7-1-1), which won its third straight to move to a West Division-best 38 points.
The Aeros, who kept Rochester’s league-best power play unit off the board in five attempts, play game two of a three-game, three-day road trip Saturday in Hamilton at 6 p.m. It marks Houston’s first trip to Hamilton since it claimed Game 7 of the 2003 Calder Cup Finals.
Greg Jacina and Stefan Mayer each scored a goal and Ryan Miller, down from Buffalo on a rehab assignment, made 20 stops for Rochester, which has lost four of six.
Law continued his stellar play, moving into third place in the AHL’s scoring race with 33 points (14-19=33). The Aeros’ captain has posted eight points (4-4=8) in the last three games and has a goal in each of the contests. Law has 10 points (5-5=10) in his last five games.
Voloshenko, a 19-year-old rookie, has 14 points (7-7=14) in the last 10 games. Houston is 8-0-0-0 when Voloshenko scores a goal, and a perfect 12-0-0-0 when he gets at least one point. His 16 goals are tied for second in the AHL and are first among first-year players. Fellow rookie O’Sullivan, 20, has seven points (4-3=7) in the Aeros’ three-game winning streak, and he has 16 points (8-8=16) in his last 11 games overall.
Harding improved to a league-best 14-5-0 this season, and his 35 wins are one ahead of Manny Fernandez and Troy Gamble for third place on the team’s all-time list. Harding trails only Frederic Chabot (126) and Derek Gustafson (37). Only Gustafson has more AHL wins than Harding, who is 9-2-0 with a 1.91 gaa since returning from a five-game injury absence in early November.
Harding kept the Aeros in the game early, making 16 saves in the opening period.
An unbelievable save by Harding kept the game scoreless eight minutes in. In transition, Nathan Paetsch rebounded a shot into a seemingly empty net, but Harding reached behind with the glove to snatch the puck. The goal light went on and all the Americans started celebrating, but Harding popped up with the puck in his glove.
Harding stopped Jacina twice with less than four minutes left in the first, after Jacina caused a turnover deep in the Houston zone.
Houston’s Josh Olson hit the post with a shorthanded attempt with 1:15 remaining in the opening period. Thirty seconds later, Rochester’s Doug Janik rang one off the post as an Americans’ power play came to an end.
O’Sullivan’s 11th of the season - and fourth in three games - beat the first-period buzzer to give Houston a 1-0 lead on the power play with 0.3 seconds left. Scott Ferguson ripped a shot from the center point, and the puck got knocked down in front. Law, falling down, made a great play to touch the pass quickly to O’Sullivan, who one-timed a rocket high over Miller’s shoulder. It marked Ferguson’s first point with the Aeros in his second game.
The Amerks tied the game just 1:31 into the second. Jiri Novotny collected the puck behind Harding, and beat Erik Reitz with a fake. Novotny sent a pass to the Jacina at the left post, and he had two whacks at the puck and got it by Harding for his third goal on Rochester’s 18th shot of the night.
Law put Houston back on top 2:24 later, at the 3:55 mark of the middle period. With the teams 4-on-4, Curtis Murphy caused a turnover at the Houston blueline. His long pass was tipped by Rem Murray to a streaking Law ahead of the pack. Law made one quick move and slid a backhander under Miller for his 14th of the season.
Murphy’s assist was his 121st point with the Aeros, moving past Travis Roche for third place all-time among defensemen. He’s 11th place overall, two points behind Scott Arniel for 10th.
Houston’s Bill Kinkel - from nearby Buffalo - and Rochester’s Sean McMorrow dropped the gloves less than a minute later, just as they emerged from the penalty box after drawing roughing minors two minutes earlier.
The Aeros’ power play unit kept rolling along, as Voloshenko scored his first of the night for a 3-1 lead at 7:53 of the second. O’Sullivan corralled the puck in the right circle and feathered a backhanded pass across the ice to Law along the left wing boards. Law slid a pass to Voloshenko between the circles, and the 19-year-old ripped a one-timer by Miller.
Harding robbed David Cullen, a member of the Aeros’ 2003 Calder Cup championship team, with 30 seconds left in the second. Cullen snuck behind the defense to the low right circle, but Harding ranged over to stop the defenseman.
Chris Thorburn got loose in the left circle on a Rochester power play early in the third, but Harding snared the short-side attempt.
Rochester’s Mayer got credit for a Houston own goal, with the Aeros on the power play with 13:18 left in regulation. Murray went to curl behind his own cage to set up the man advantage, but the puck went off his stick and by a stunned Harding.
Harding kept things 3-2 midway through the period, as Dan Focht ripped a shot from just inside the left circle. A minute later, Harding robbed Thorburn’s one-timer from the right circle.
The quick Aeros drew two more penalties on Rochester with less than seven minutes left, and scored on one of the power plays to put the game away. Voloshenko’s second of the night and 16th of the season restored the lead to two goals with 4:04 remaining. Law, in the right circle, again set up the rookie, who poked the puck home from between the circles.
Lundbohm finished things off with 56 seconds left with an empty-net goal, his fifth tally of the season.
Houston went 3-for-7 on the power play, its second straight three power-play goal game, while Rochester finished 0-for-5. The Amerks entered tonight’s game with the top ranked power play unit in the AHL at 25.8 percent, including 37.5 percent in the last three games.
The Aeros scratched Colin Peters, Peter Olvecky, Joey Tetarenko and Andrei Nazarov.
Houston has lost only once to Rochester in nine meetings (5-1-3-0).
Murray picked up his 100th AHL point (34-66=100) in 101 games.
Houston improved to 17-1-0-0 when scoring three goals or more.
The Aeros are 11-1-0-0 when scoring two or more power play goals.
Murphy has an assist in three straight games, and he has nine points (2-7=9) in the last 11 games.
Houston’s Erik Westrum, the AHL’s leading scorer, assisted on Voloshenko’s second goal to move to 37 points (12-25=37).
Voloshenko’s nine power play goals are one more than Law for the team lead. Westrum is third with seven. Voloshenko also took over the team lead with his third game-winning goal.
Law has three games with three points or more, trailing only Westrum (four) for the team lead.
The Aeros are 14-1-0-1 when O’Sullivan has a point and 7-1-0-0 when he scores a goal.
Houston has scored 17 goals in three games since being shut out 3-0 by Milwaukee on November 27.