It’s taken a while for Nicklas Jensen.
“A little bit too long,” he said.
The Vancouver Canucks’ first-round draft choice in 2011 had played 17 games for the Utica Comets without scoring a goal.
He broke the string Sunday, converting on a power play midway through the second period to tie the game, and scoring a critical goal in the shootout to help the Comets to a 3-2 American Hockey League victory over the Lake Erie Monsters at the Utica Memorial Auditorium and bring a grueling weekend to a successful conclusion.
Kellan Lain scored the other goal for the Comets, Peter Andersson, Alex Biega, Cal O’Reilly and Alexandre Grenier had assists, and Joacim Eriksson made 26 saves – including one on Brian Lerg on a 2-on-1 in the final minute of regulation – as the Comets (8-15-1-1, fifth in the North Division) collected four points in three games in a matter of 48 hours.
Mark Olver and Stefane Elliott scored and Sami Aittokallio made 28 saves for the Monsters (12-12-0-2, 4th in the North Division).
The Comets defeated the Binghamton Senators 5-2 on Friday at the Aud, were edged 1-0 by the Penguins in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, and arrived home about 2:30 a.m. after a long drive through the snow before getting the best of the Monsters.
“It’s really nice,” said Jensen, who is still just 20 years old and who head coach Travis Green suggested will get stronger and faster as he works on his game and will earn more and more ice time. “It’s huge for us. It’s something we really need. And we deserved a point last night, too.”
Jensen’s power play goal, on passes from Grenier and O’Reilly, knotted the game, and neither team could score after that, with Eriksson and Aittokallio both doing good work. Both teams had some great looks in the last few minutes of regulation and overtime, too, without success.
Colin Smith scored for Lake Erie on the first try of the shootout, but Eriksson he stopped the next three attempts. Aittokallio stopped Benn Ferriero, but Pascal Pelletier and Jensen connected for the Comets, then Grenier potted the winner, giving the Comets their first two-game home win streak of the season.
“I’m real happy,” Green said. “Tonight was probably one of our better games of the year. All three games.”
One key element was the Comets’ ability to keep the Monsters’ power play under control a bit. Lake Erie came in having scored on the power play nine times in their previous five games. The Monsters did take the lead on Elliott’s power play score at 13:27 of the first period, but the Comets did kill the other three man-ups and that was critical.