Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Category Archives: Postgamer

Man-handled — Pens LOSE 2-1 (Season Over)

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If you would have told me a week ago that the Manchester Monarchs would dismiss the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins in five games, I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t think if you told anyone that they would have believed you.

Remember, no matter what you do, there is always someone better. The Penguins were a good team this season. With the additions from Pittsburgh about ten days ago, they were the odds on lock to walk through the Eastern Conference and make it to the Calder Cup Finals.

But there is always someone better. This time it was the Manchester Monarchs who are as good as they come advertised. When I broke the series down last Tuesday, I said that the Penguins defense was a deeper team. Just take a look at these charts (through Game 4) and you’ll see familiar names like Taylor Chorney, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin at the bottom. These names were at the top during the regular season, but they looked pedestrian during this series.

I said that the Penguins had the advantage in goal because of what Matt Murray accomplished. I forgot to tell Manchester because they tore Murray to shreds. I am admittedly bad at math but his numbers were bad in the series and he was pulled after the Monarchs scored their second goal in the first period.

I conceded that the forward corps of Manchester was better than the Penguins. They were. With Wilkes-Barre’s defense neutralized and Murray brought down to earth the Monarchs struck early, often and quickly. The Penguins could never recover. It cost them their season in five games.

So here we stand. At the end of the line again and a whole offseason and regular season to hope to get to do it all again in mid April 2016. It sucks. I’ll be the first to tell you. It’s fun to write about this team as a hobby, which is all that this is, but it makes it easy when you are a winner and are successful year after year after year after year.

This is a transition time for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. There are reports that the New Jersey Devils have interest in head coach John Hynes. Our defensive corps of Derrick Pouliot, Taylor Chorney, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin are probably all graduated to Pittsburgh or the NHL. Up front is a big question mark. Will Tom Kostopoulos make another run or hang them up for good? What will become of Conor Sheary, will Pittsburgh or another NHL team sign him to a big league pact? Answers to come this summer.

As for the game, Matt Murray opposed J-F Berube. Adrian Kempe scored at 2:01 of the first period after a turnover / giveaway from Derrick Pouliot for a 1-0 Manchester lead. The Monarchs doubled the lead on a Nick Shore dart entering the zone with the Penguins in a four man box and no one picking up the man with the puck streaking in in Shore for a 2-0 lead at 14:57. Matt Murray’s night was done and Jeff Zatkoff didn’t allow a goal and was perfect with 22 saves.

The Penguins made it a game late in the second with a goal from Conor Sheary at 18:43 on a set faceoff play. The faceoff was won back to Sheary who stepped into it and wired one past Berube to put Wilkes-Barre on the board.

In the third, Manchester proved why they were the second best team in the AHL on defense, blocking shots and only allowing six to get to Berube. Wilkes-Barre never found the equalizer.

Berube was your third star with 28 saves on 29 shots. Conor Sheary was your second star with a goal and Nick Sore was the first star with the game winning goal.

Lots of post mortem stuff to come in the coming days. The Penguins will be playing in a new, eight team division next season. I’ll have stuff on that in a few days.

I’ll update for the final time my postseason charts and probably put a blog out on the final numbers.

I’ll have a Year in Review either this weekend or next week.

My offseason moves chart will be up once the dust settles on contract statuses for next season.

And I will be around in the summertime.

Thanks to everyone who reads, shares and interacts with me here on the blog and on all platforms. I do this all for you guys. I aim to entertain and inform. I hope that you continue to check in with me here on the blog all summer. Lots of things to look forward to.

Let’s Go Pens!!!

Weal Problems — Pens LOSE 5-2

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The Penguins were in trouble in this game before it was :43 old.

That was when Monarchs forwards Jordan Weal tracked down a puck that Penguins goaltender Matt Murray batted up in the air and swept past the Wilkes-Barre net minder for a 1-0 Monarchs lead at :42 and a lead they would not relinquish as they roll to a 5-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and a commanding 3-1 series lead.

The Monarchs are undefeated when they score first this postseason. It was the first road win for Manchester since 2013.

Oh. That Weal kid. He wasn’t done. He had a hat trick. After being held off of the score sheet in Game Three, he was everywhere tonight and made the Penguins pay.

No lineup changes for the Penguins in Game Four.

The Penguins had two opportunities to get back into the game in the first period on two power plays but did not score. You could look at this game and see many turning points. The Weal goal at :42 is certainly one and the Penguin inability to score on two power plays in the first was certainly another.

Wilkes-Barre went on another power play to open the second period but Manchester scored shorthanded on a Michael Mersch dart of a shot on a two-on-one with Brian Dumoulin back.

Wheels came off after that. Manchester scores on a blatant offsides call when Weal gets a piece of a Colin Miller blast from the blue line that made it 3-0. Terrible non-call from the officials and you would expect better out of an officiating crew that gets games on merit at this point in the season, but the Penguins did not lose the game because of the officiating.

Manchester made it 4-0 about four minutes later when Nick Shore was marked by a stickless Barry Goers and passed to David Van der Gulick on the opposite high dot for a one timer.

Murray was touched for three goals on twelve shots in the second period. Remember his body of work in the regular season? Murray wouldn’t let three goals in during an entire weekend. He was replaced by Jeff Zatkoff to start the third period.

Weal finished off his hat trick in the third period on a power play with Andrew Ebbett in the penalty box for a 5-0 Manchester lead.

Penguins made it interesting by scoring two goals in a span of :37. Nick Drazenovic from his stomach passed to Tom Kostopoulos who slipped it under J-F Berube’s pads to break up the Berube shutout. Then Bryan Rust powered around a Manchester defenseman for another goal.

Monarchs head coach Mike Stothers used his time out to stop the bleeding. Hynes pulled Zatkoff with about six minutes to play looking for the Hail Mary but instead came up empty.

Three stars were Van der Gulick with a goal and an assist and a +1, Michael Mersch with a goal, an assist and a +3 and Jordan Weal with three goals and a +2.

I’ll run the in-depth numbers tomorrow, but Taylor Chorney was a -2, Conor Sheary picked up another point, he has had one in every game for the Penguins this Spring but was a -2. Derrick Pouliot pinched too deep during a sequence which led to a Manchester goal, Kasperi Kapanen was invisible tonight, Andrew Ebbett hasn’t scored a goal in the series yet. I could go on and on. But it’s piling on. I said to many at the game tonight that if the Penguins don’t somehow manage the impossible and beat Manchester that the Monarchs will probably win the Calder Cup.

Think about it. The Penguins lineup is the best and deepest its been in years, if not ever. Murray is the Goaltender and Rookie of the Year. Wilkes-Barre is well coached, and the top defensive team in the AHL for the fourth out of five years under John Hynes. Kapanen, Sheary, Rust, Pouliot, Dumoulin, Chorney, Harrington, etc. all have pedigree and will go on to long NHL careers but right now it’s men against boys. If you put all those accolades in a jar and told someone who is knowledgeable about the game of hockey to watch this series and then at the end of the series tell them that the team that is being dismantled right now is the Penguins, they probably wouldn’t believe you. That’s how much better the Monarchs are right now.

Never give up the ship. Keep the faith. Game 5 tomorrow. We’ll set it up at 3 with the Gameday setup, attend the game at 7 p.m. tomorrow and let it ride.

Let’s Go Pens!

It’s Never Easy — Pens WIN 2-1

button_lv200       vs.       WBS

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Thought jumped into my head when the Penguins had just gotten scored on late in the third period of tonights game, a 2-1 Penguins win in Game 3, that these games are never easy.

For the Penguins, who were for the most part the better side tonight, the better team. A goal by David Van der Gulick on a breakaway late in the third, and it wasn’t easy for the Penguins.

You easily could say the same thing from a Manchester perspective tonight. The Monarchs dominated the Penguins in Game 2. Why the struggles? It’s isn’t easy.

A welcome addition tonight with Bryan Rust and a goal from him in the high slot in the first period, a Tom Kostopoulos power play goal in the second period and steady goaltending and defense from Matt Murray and the Penguins as a whole, and all of a sudden it’s a series again. Game 4 goes Monday in Wilkes-Barre.

Matt Murray vs. J-F Berube.

Lines were…

Tom Kostopoulos – Andrew Ebbett – Carter Rowney
Conor Sheary – Jayson Megna – Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl – Nick Drazenovic – Kasperi Kapanen
Dominik Uher – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Taylor Chorney – Brian Dumoulin
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Oskar Sundqvist, Josh Archibald and Scott Wilson were out for Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Drazenovic (first AHL game since February11 ) and Bryan Rust (first AHL game since April 12). Sundqvist and Wilson are day to day with injuries and Josh Archibald, per what John Hynes told Tom Venesky post game, is done for the year.

First Period: Bryan Rust connects on a goal at the high slot for a 1-0 Wilkes-Barre lead and the first lead of the series for the Penguins. He was left alone for a split second and took advantage of it and scored for a 1-0 Penguin lead.

Wilkes-Barre had to kill two penalties in the period and did so.

Second Period: Manchester killed off three of four penalties in the second and took a cumulative five straight going back to the first. Tom Kostopoulos connected with Andrew Ebbett for a give and go goal to put the Penguins ahead 2-0.

Manchester came in waves in this period and Matt Murray was up to task every time and was the difference maker.

Third Period: More Murray. But the Monarchs would not be denied David Van der Gulick scored on a breakaway when Nic Dowd found him all alone at the blue line. Van der Gulick skated in and scored on Murray to cut the Manchester deficit to one with 6:59 left to play.

Penguins respond by having a long, two minute offensive shift in the Manchester end but don’t score out of it.

Berube was pulled around the 1:20 mark and Manchester turned on the pressure but never found the equalizer. Key saves from Murray and shot blocks from men in front, notably Tom Kostopoulos in the final ten seconds.

Three Stars: 3) Matt Murray (29 saves on 30 shots) 2) Conor Sheary (two assists) and 1) Tom Kostopoulos (goal)

Big game out of Jayson Megna. Pittsburgh brass was in town, notably head coach Mike Johnston, so Megna played with a burr up his you know where.

The Penguins and Monarchs were the only game in town in the AHL tonight. Just a quick reset of other series: Grand Rapids leads Rockford 2-0 in their series, Utica and Oklahoma City are 1-1 and so is Hershey and Hartford.

I will have a chart refresh on the blog sometime late Sunday. Have a nice Mother’s Day!

Let’s Go Pens!

Pens Lose 5-2? Weal-ly?

WBS       @       button_lv200

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Throw everything that you know or you think you know about the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins for a second and let me hit you with some statistics:

– The Penguins have been outshot 90-63 in these two games.
– AHL MVP Brian O’Neill and his line mate Jordan Weal are 2-3-5 and 3-1-4 respectively in the series.
– First team AHL AHL All-Star, Rookie and Goaltender of the Year Matt Murray has a 3.35 GAA and a 0.899 SV% while J-F Berube has a 1.83 GAA and a 0.921 SV%.
– The Kuhnhackl / Rowney / Ebbett line is 1-1-2 through two games.

We often laugh off other teams in other divisions in this Conference because of the wars we wage with the Binghamton’s, Hershey’s, Lehigh Valley’s and Norfolk’s of the East Division, but the Manchester Monarchs of the Atlantic Division are as good if not better than advertised in this playoff series and are every bit as good as advertised as the AHL’s regular season champions. The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, through two games can’t stop and haven’t contained the regular season champions yet in this series and haven’t had a lead in the series yet and now trail the Monarchs 0-2 after a 5-2 loss tonight. The series shifts to Wilkes-Barre for Game 3 Saturday.

One of the things that I am struggling with in comprehending is how the Monarchs were taken to five games in the first round by the eighth seeded Portland Pirates. The Penguins are a class level above the Pirates as far as skill level top to bottom, but you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between that if you have watched this series so far.

Matt Murray vs. J-F Berube.

Lines were…

Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Jayson Megna – Josh Archibald
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Bobby Farnham – J-S Dea – Oskar Sundqvist

Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Lineup Changes: Kasperi Kapanen was out for Josh Archibald on the second line, Oskar Sundqvist made his pro debut on the fourth line for Pierre Leblond. Matia Marcantuoni took warmups but was scratched, J-S Dea took his spot.

First Period: The Monarchs showed no ill effects of the three overtime thriller from the night before, turning on the offensive pressure like you would a lightbulb switch in your favorite room in your house. Just when you think the Penguins were going to set the offensive tone, they got no shots, and were back in their own end trying to stifle the endless pressure of the Monarchs offensive forwards. Finally about halfway though, Brian O’Neill digs a puck out of a corner, cuts to the net, avoids the sweeping poke checks from the Penguin defenders and roofs the shot over Murray for a 1-0 Manchester lead.

I don’t think a first period that saw the Penguins trailing in shots 7-2 and 12-3 at points in the period was due to fatigue as much as it was the Monarchs just opening up an imaginary beach umbrella in front of Berube’s net and managed to block or deflect aside any shot headed in their goaltenders direction.

Second Period: Penguins best period of the series so far. Not much in the way of shots to the net, but the offensive zone time was there. Penguins scored on a power play goal on this goal by Conor Sheary that went to review…

:09 later, Justin Auger found himself room and scored to make it 2-1. Big time response by the Monarchs and bad coverage by the Penguins who watched Auger walk in and before they realized his actions were too late to do anything to stop it.

But Wilkes-Barre answered right back off of the face-off on this finish by Dominik Uher…

Three goals in :23. The Penguins would have been absolutely crushed if they played as well as they did to have the momentum snatched away from them as quickly as they built it.

But wait, the period wasn’t over yet.

Brian O’Neill found Jordan Weal all alone on the near dot on a nice cross ice pass that Weal one timed over Murray’s shoulder for a 3-2 lead. I noticed after the Uher goal, the Penguins didn’t have any offensive setup at all and the Monarchs continued their relentless pressure and finally got the goal from Weal that put them ahead heading into the…

Third Period: Penguins had a nice jump to open but took a penalty and who else but Jordan Weal scored on it to extend the lead for the Monarchs to 4-2. Murray couldn’t freeze it and the puck was shuffled over to Weal who poked it across for the first multi-goal lead in the series and the first power play goal allowed by the Penguins in the post season.

The Monarchs iced the game away with two key penalty kills on the Penguins. Brian O’Neill hit an open net with Murray vacated that made it 5-2. Despite the fact that the Penguins had a better start and looked improved compared to the other periods, even with the benefit of two power plays and an extra man with the goaltender pulled, the Monarchs still outshout the Penguins 10-8 in the third.

Three Stars: 3) Brian O’Neill (two goals, assist, +2) 2) Michael Mersch (three assists, +1) and 1) Jordan Weal (two goals, assist, +1)

No other action in the Eastern Conference tonight. Hartford and Hershey play their Game 2 Friday in Chocolatetown.

So the Penguins are down 0-2 with the series shifting to Wilkes-Barre for an important Game 3 Saturday. Silver lining is the fact that the Monarchs have not won a game on the road yet this postseason and the Penguins have the next three at home (provided they win Saturday or Monday) so the series is far from over yet, but the Penguins must come up with some way to slow down the hectic offensive pace that the Monarchs are setting.

One note before we wrap it up, Josh Archibald left the game with an apparent injury and did not return and I didn’t hear Barry Goers name much in the second half of the game but he was on very late. Got to wonder if a defensive move is made in favor of Nick D’Agostino, Ryan Parent or Danny Syvret for Game 3 Saturday.

I’ll update the postseason charts and may individualize the charts exclusive to this series sometime Friday and will tweet a link. Look for the Game 3 setup Saturday at 3 p.m.

Let’s Go Pens!

Penguins Tripped in Triple OT — Pens LOSE 4-3 (3OT)

WBS       @       button_lv200

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Nick Shore scored at somewhere around 7:01 Wilkes-Barre time.

Fast forward four and a half hours later, Zach O’Brien scored in triple overtime to give the Manchester Monarchs a 4-3 win in triple overtime and a 1-0 series lead.

The second longest game in Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins history.

Instant classic doesn’t even begin to describe this one. You don’t win a series in the first game nor do you lose one. But yeah, the team that wins the first game only needs to win three more to advance. The Penguins played the game from behind the whole game and probably needed this cold slap in the face to get them pointed in the right direction.

We hope.

Not much long to wait for retribution, Game 2 goes off at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Matt Murray vs. J-F Berube.

Lines were…

Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Jayson Megna – Kasperi Kapanen
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Josh Archibald took warmups but was scratched in favor of Matia Marcantuoni from Game 3 vs. Syracuse. We are still waiting for the debut of Oskar Sundqvist and the returns of Nick Drazenovic and Bryan Rust.

First Period: Monarchs got the jump on the Penguins eighteen seconds in with Nick Shore scoring off of a turnover in front of Murray that put the Monarchs on the board giving them their fastest goal scored in their playoff history and Wilkes-Barre’s first deficit in the post season. The Pens never trailed once in the three game sweep of Syracuse.

Taylor Chorney answered a little over three minutes later. An offensive zone face-off win by Jayson Megna found its way to Chorney who scored.

Manchester continued to press. Quick through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. Wave after wave after wave. Finally, Manchester edged ahead again when Brian O’Neill pushed a puck past an out of position Murray after the Penguins netminder failed to control a rebound.

Penguins scored on a power play in the final minute after Bobby Farnham drew a hook on Jeff Schultz. Six seconds into the power play, Scott Wilson from the high right slot one timed a puck in for a tie game.

So the AHL’s top defensive units all season long score a pair of goals on each other heading into the….

Second Period: Penguins started to edge ahead of the Monarchs in chances to open, outshooting the home team 4-1 in the first ten minutes, but Jordan Weal continued to dominate the face-off dot. He won one back to Colin Miller who rifled it home for a 3-2 Monarchs lead. Shots were an even 7 a side for both teams as the Monarchs turned up the offensive pressure in the final seven minutes.

Third Period: Penguins came back in the period and it was all set up by this Matt Murray ten bell save on Michael Mersch…

Conor Sheary tied it a few minutes later when he played a puck off a wall and backhanded it past Berube.

Penguins needed to balance offensive pressure while not maintaining anything dangerous for the high power Manchester Monarchs team.

Notable: Kasperi Kapanen was placed on the ‘KRU’ line with Dominik Uher up with Scott Wilson and Jayson Megna as John Hynes was looking to shake up lines looking for offense. nothing doing heading to…

First Overtime: Kapanen was placed back with Wilson and Megna to open. Both goaltenders came up big with saves. Manchester was coming in waves…Tom Kostopoulos past the half way point of the period nearly ended it but Berube came up big.

Berube made a save in a pile of bodies that went to review but the refs took a look at it and ruled no goal.

Close call for Wilkes-Barre late as the Penguins were playing late with two players without sticks.

Pens had a late power play to close out the first overtime but allowed Manchester a few looks shorthanded, but did not score and the teams headed into the…

Second Overtime: Scott Wilson took one shift but was missing on the top line for the Penguins for most of the second overtime. Lines were jumbled for the Penguins. Both teams had chances to end it but didn’t. Monarchs had a 12-3 shot advantage in the second overtime.

Third Overtime: Zach O’Brien ended it at 4:13 of the third overtime on a busted coverage of who had who by the Penguins.

Three Stars: 3) Jordan Weal (two assists, +1) 2) Conor Sheary (goal, assist, +1) and 1) Zach O’Brien game winning third overtime goal, +1)

Like I said from the open, the Penguins played from behind in this one from the open and just could not recover enough from a standpoint to take a lead in regulation. That they took Manchester to the third overtime means that you are looking at a knock down, drag out battle to the end between the two sides.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: Hershey and Hartford went into overtime in their first game and ex-Bear Chris Bourque ended it in the first OT at 16:47 to give the Wolf Pack a 2-1 overtime win and a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is Friday in Hershey.

Game 2 of this best of seven will be Thursday at 7. Gameday for that goes up at 3 p.m. Rest up.

Let’s Go Pens!

Sheary-ous Business — Pens WIN 5-2 (WBS Wins Series 3-0)

WBS        @        SYR

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For all the hype that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins had on getting a cavalry back from Pittsburgh between games two and three, it was a player on an AHL contract that made the difference tonight.

Conor Sheary’s two goals and an assist were the difference in Game 3 as the Penguins are onto the next round after a 5-2 win in Syracuse which completes the sweep of the Crunch. Wilkes-Barre has won a playoff series for at least 12 of the last 13 Calder Cup post seasons.

The Penguins struck for three power play goals, which won them the game and probably the series. The Pens were 6/14 in this series and this is what carried them in Game 2 and again in Game 3. Syracuse’s penalty kill was the bottom 25 in the 30 team AHL this regular season. It’s not the best gauge to see how the Penguins stack up special teams wise going forward, but you take them how they come.

The Penguins will not know their opponent in the second round until at least Friday. More on that later.

Matt Murray vs. Kristers Gudlevskis.

With all of the reinforcements arriving from Pittsburgh Sunday, this was the look at the lines in Game 3.

Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Jayson Megna – Kasperi Kapanen
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Pierre Leblond – J-S Dea – Bobby Farnham

Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Josh Archibald took warmups but was scratched. Scott Wilson took Archibald’s spot on the second line. On defense, Dumoulin, Chroney and Pouliot were in for Nick D’Agostino, Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret.

First Period: Syracuse believed at the end of Game 2 that they were the better team at five-on-five and it showed in this first period of Game 3. Penguins strike first on the power play on this busted play…

Sheary had it in the high slot, saw a shot blocker in front, dished to Wilson who one timed it in.

Game settled down a bit then Yanni Gourde scored on a similar play to the Wilson power play goal. He was in front and chipped in a puck over Murray for the tie game. That goal ended 102:53 of shutout playoff hockey by Matt Murray.

Bobby Farnham was under the skin of the Crunch all period. He and David Broll tangle after a save by Murray in close. Broll knocks him over but the referee takes both of them. Then, late in the period with seconds remaining, Farnham loses out on an icing race with Luke Witkowski. Witkowski chases him to the neutral zone and tackles him, refs take both. I felt that if it was any one other than Farnham in that situation, the Penguins would have been awarded a power play.

Second Period: Conor Sheary had all day and did not miss…..

I mean it was the parting of the Red Sea there.

Pens continued to apply forechecking which led to sustained offensive zone pressure. Penguins outshot the Crunch 9-6 and took command heading into the….

Third Period: Power play came to life.

J-P Cote boards Farnham. Conor Sheary again…

The exact copy of the Wilson goal from the first. Blocked lane in front of the shooter in the high slot, dish off to far man, in this case Sheary, for a one time and in.

Crunch took another penalty, this time a too many men on the ice infraction, and the Penguins cashed again. Derrick Pouliot….

The Penguins were perfect on the power play tonight.

But, there was way too much time on the clock. Syracuse made a game of it as a puck deflected off of Sheary and through the pads of Matt Murray and in for a 4-2 Penguin lead. Time slowed to a crawl. John Hynes called his time out to stop whatever possible run that Syracuse thought that they had. It worked.

Game hit a lull. Matt Murray, though. Chest save on a shot after a serious offensive presence from the Crunch out of the time out. Felt like the Pens were clinging to a two goal lead.

More saves from Murray. Stops a fluttering shot from a Slater Koekkoek shot from the blue line. Glove save through a screen. Desperation set in for the Crunch and they pulled Gudlevskis and Andrew Ebbett hit an empty net to ice it away.

Three Stars: 3) Derrick Pouliot (goal, assist, +1) 2) Yanni Gourde (goal, assist, +1) and 1) Conor Sheary (two goals, assist, -1)

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: Most of the games tonight were Western Conference match ups. Only the Hershey Bears, with a chance to close out their series with the Worcester Sharks, lost 4-1 tonight. That series will see a Game 4, on Friday. Manchester and Portland have a Game 4 Thursday in Portland. Providence and Hartford play a decisive Game 5 Friday.

It’s too much to keep up with. We’ll know when we know.

Wheeling Update: Nailers lose in overtime in Game 7 against the Toledo Walleye on a shorthanded goal by a score of 2-1. Heartbreaking loss for the Nailers who game the ECHL’s regular season champion Walleye a run to the seventh game in overtime.

Postseason Chart big board is updated here.

Next blog will be when the next opponent is known or if not an update on what is going on no later than Saturday.

Let’s Go Pens!!!

Penguin Power! — Pens WIN 4-0

SYR        vs.        WBS

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The Penguins are one win away from the second round after a 4-0 whitewash of the Syracuse Crunch. Matt Murray picked up a shutout with a 27 save performance, the Penguins struck for three times on the power play and the Syracuse Crunch have scored just one goal in the series as it shifts back to Syracuse for what can be a decisive Game 3 for the Penguins if they continue doing what they have been doing.

Penguins made one lineup change from the night before, swapping J-S Dea in for Matia Marcantuoni at fourth line center. Everything else was status quo. Matt Murray opposed Kristers Gudlevskis.

First Period: Penguins got to the power play quickly on a Carter Ashton slash. Yanni Gourde broke in unabated and Murray made a huge pad stop. Back the other way. Jayson Megna cashed for a rebound goal off of a Conor Sheary shot off of the back board which Andrew Ebbett corralled and chipped over to Megna for the power play tally.

Penguins would take two penalties after that but would kill them fairly easily. The period was dominated by power plays to either side. To this point, passes were being made and connecting but the finish wasn’t there. The Penguins finally would win the special teams battle with…

… A Carter Rowney redirect of a Josh Archibald offering that made it 2-0 on a power play and again with…

… A goal credited to Tom Kostopoulos as time expired that went in off of Luke Witkowski and in as the clock hit zero for a 3-0 Penguin lead.

Second Period: Syracuse outshot the Penguins 11-6 in the period and at times had Wilkes-Barre running around a bit. Crunch had the benefit of two power plays in the period but the Penguins were able to kill them.

Third Period: Penguins sat on the lead a bit, had better looks offensively compared to the second. Jayson Megna and Bobby Farnham had some great chances with Farnham’s coming on a breakaway. Wilkes-Barre adds another goal on a Kasperi Kapanen shot that banked in off of Crunch defenseman Joey Mormina’s stick and in. Mormina was back as Kapanen was sprung, Kasperi made a move and the momentum of that coupled with the poke check by Mormina pulled Gudlevskis out of position enough for the puck to trickle over the line and in.

Three Stars: 3) Carter Rowney (goal, even) 2) Jayson Megna (goal, even) and 1) Matt Murray (27 save shutout)

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: Manchester and Hershey tale 2-0 series leads against Portland and Worcester with 6-2 and 3-1 wins, respectively. Providence beats Hartford 2-1 in Game 2 which knots that series at 1-1.

Wheeling Update: Nailers lose 2-1 and need to win in Game 6 Tuesday in Toledo else their season is over.

Penguins may get the services of Taylor Chorney, Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot and Scott Wilson in time for Game 3. Watch Twitter and/or Facebook for that.

I’ll have the update of the postseason chart big board sometime Sunday afternoon / evening. I’ll tweet a link when I do.

Let’s Go Pens!!!

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