Two grunts on the Syracuse Crunch's revamped checking line picked a good time to flash a little scoring finesse Friday night.
Darren Sinclair scored a short-handed, game-winning goal in the third period and Tyson Nash added an insurance power-play goal to help the Crunch rally to a 5-3 victory over Hershey at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Considering the Crunch's depleted and shuffled lineup, the effort might have been the team's best of the season. Syracuse came back from a 3-1 deficit against a Hershey team that entered the game tied for the most points (45) in the AHL.
The line of Nash, Sinclair and Ian McIntyre was the team's fresh battery, helping to power a devastating forecheck. The Crunch had Hershey, one of the league's best defensive teams, looking clueless in its own end.
"Our type of style is nothing fancy," Nash said of his line. "We just tried to wear them out down low. I think they got tired and frustrated."
Syracuse also scored three power-play goals for the second game in a row.
McIntyre was recalled from Wheeling of the East Coast Hockey League Friday to replace Dave Scatchard. Scatchard will miss the rest of the season after an upcoming surgery to repair his right foot.
Scatchard centered a hammer line along with Nash and Rod Stevens. Friday, Sinclair, normally a wing, skated between McIntyre and Nash.
That line may need a facelift tonight against Hamilton. McIntyre suffered a hip pointer late in the game and his status is uncertain. If he's hurt, Syracuse will be down to just eight healthy forwards, two fewer than usually dress.
Sinclair's effort on the game-winner typified the Crunch's spirit. With the score tied 3-3 and Syracuse down a man, he hassled Hershey's Pascal Trepanier in the Bears' end.
Trepanier tried to flip the puck out of danger. Sinclair batted it down with his hand and cut from the left wing toward Hershey goalie J.F. Labbe.
Sinclair found a small opening between Labbe's pads at the 6-minute, 4 second mark for his seventh goal of the season.
"I was just thinking, I'm not the kind of guy who has 5,000 moves," Sinclair said. "I saw the five-hole there, and I just put it through. We're here to check. If we get a goal, that's a bonus."
Nash, who scored just four goals in 50 games for the Crunch last year, keeps earning more time on the power play this season with his fearless style. At the 10:30 mark, he stationed himself to the right side of the Hershey crease and knocked a rebound past Labbe for his seventh goal of the season.
"It's my type of goal. Just garbage, bang it in," Nash said. "All five of our goals were just hard-working goals. Even though Dave is out, we can't sit back and shed a tear over it."
Syracuse defenseman Mark Krys and John Blessman need no hankies. They provided some much-needed support from the blue line by scoring a goal each.
Krys' came on the power play, off a crisp cross-ice feed from Brian Loney. Krys, who has a knack for taking the right offensive chances, stepped up to beat Labbe and tie the game at three with 14 seconds left in the second period.
Blessman tied the game at one 1:03 into the second by resorting to a favorite trick for the second game in a row. Instead of dumping the puck in on a Crunch power play, Blessman blasted the rubber on goal from 10 feet behind the blue line, to the left of center ice.
When he saw Blessman wind up, Labbe made a slight move toward the right corner in anticipation of chasing the puck. Instead, the puck blew past his left side before he could backtrack.
Blessman used that tactic to score a similar goal from center ice against Providence Saturday.
"There's no reason we can't be part of the offense," Blessman said. "This will just add to our repertoire when we do get a full and healthy lineup."
A first-period penalty kill by Syracuse was an early turning point. With the Bears ahead 1-0, Syracuse defenseman Bert Robertsson was given a five-minute penalty for kneeing.
Hershey had a chance to score as many goals at it could during that span, but the Crunch kept the Bears from padding their lead.
How the Crunch won
Hershey's Blair Atcheynum puts a shot on goal from the left side of Crunch goalie Frederic Cassivi. Cassivi handles that, but Atcheynum shrugs off a check to gather his own rebound and score at the 3:46 mark. Hershey 1-0.
With the Crunch on a power play, John Blessman's shot from behind the blueline catches Hershey goalie J.F. Labbe moving the wrong way at the 1:03 mark. Game tied 1-1.
Hershey's Mike Hartman skates down the right wing on a breakaway and puts a low backhander past Cassivi at the 2:57 mark. Hershey 2-1.
With Hershey on a power play, the Bears' Rich Brennan unloads from above the right circle at the 3:51 mark. Hershey 3-1.
Syracuse's Bogdan Savenko is pulled down from behind on a breakaway. When Savenko, Labbe and the puck all crash into the Hershey net, Syracuse is awarded a goal at the 5:16 mark. Hershey 3-2.
With the Crunch on a power play, Syracuse's Brian Loney sets up teammate Mark Krys with a pretty pass to the right circle. Krys swoops in with a rocket at the 19:46 mark. Game tied 3-3.
With the Crunch on a penalty kill, Syracuse's Darren Sinclair steals the puck along the left wing in the Hershey end and converts a short breakaway at the 6:04 mark. Syracuse 4-3.
With the Crunch on a power play, Savenko's bid is denied by Labbe but the rebound rolls to Syracuse's Tyson Nash. Nash has a gimme from the right side of the crease at the 10:30 mark. Syracuse 5-3.