John Purves scored three goals and assisted on another to power the Baltimore Skipjacks to a 7-1 American Hockey League Southern Division victory last night over the Binghamton Rangers before 4,211 at the Baltimore Arena.
The victory broke a three-game home losing streak and was only Baltimore's second win in nine games on home ice since Feb. 10. With the win, and the 6-4 loss by the Adirondack Red Wings to the Utica Devils last night, the Skipjacks clinched at least third place in the division.
"Purves has been playing very well for us," said Skipjacks coach Rob Laird. "He is capable of this kind of point production. He has an excellent shot and he is putting his shots on goal."
Purves and his mates outshot the Rangers, who are in second place, 37-24. Baltimore took an early lead and never let up.
"It's a great feeling to get my first hat trick of the season," said Purves. "It was long overdue. My line, Tim Taylor and Steve Maltais, is playing real well. We had a couple of meetings and decided that we had to get together and we have. We seem to be in the groove now, and that's what we need with the playoffs coming up.
"This was a very huge game for us. We hadn't been playing well at home and a win like this will give us confidence. Now we know we can handle Binghamton, our first-round opponent in the playoffs, and we know we can win at home."
In addition to Purves, Reggie Savage, Bobby Reynolds and Bob Joyce each had a goal and an assist; and Taylor and Joe Quenneville had two assists each. Maltais scored Baltimore's other goal.
"We needed that one," said defenseman Quenneville. "It was a win we had to have. Everyone played well and contributed to the win. Losing at home the way we were wasn't good, now it's over with and we can get ready for the playoffs knowing we can win at home."
The win stopped a seven-game Binghamton winning streak that has carried the Rangers to a seven-point lead over Baltimore.
"We caught a tired hockey team," said Laird. "Binghamton waplaying its fourth game in five nights and we jumped on them early. I was extremely pleased with the effort. We had a great penalty-killing effort [the Rangers were 0-for-6] and we scored two short-handed goals. We were also 2-for-3 on the power play, and our even-up play was commendable."
The Baltimore special teams put on a show in the first periodpushing the Skipjacks into a 3-0 lead. Baltimore scored two power-play goals and one short-handed goal.
Savage opened the scoring at 1 minute, 44 seconds with his 30th goal of the season during a power play. Alfie Turcotte got the puck in the left corner and fed Savage in the slot. Savage wristed a shot past Sam St. Laurent.
Seven minutes later, Purves gave Baltimore a 2-0 lead with power play on a slap shot from the left point that found its way through St. Laurent's pads.
Reynolds, scoring short-handed, boosted Baltimore's lead to 3-0 11:48 when Purves intercepted a clearing attempt. Purves fed Reynolds for a breakaway.
The Skipjacks kept up the offense in the second period as Joyce scored on a slap shot from the left circle that beat St. Laurent, wide and to the glove side for a 4-0 lead at 1:27.