Defense wins Championships.
It’s the old adage that gets tossed around all the time. Well, it was the Pens Defense that held Hershey to 16 shots on goal and only 1 goal in a 4-1 win at GIANT Center this evening.
Brad Thiessen vs. Nolan Schaefer – Bears PxP John Walton tweeted that the Penguins are without three of the top five scorers and the Bears are without three of their top 6. Neither team was at 100%.
First Period: Off the hop, Ryan Craig slipped the puck under Schaefer to give the Pens a 1-0 very early. Pens really clamped the Bears down to only 4 SOG this period and none in the first 10 minutes or so. Both teams would trade a Joe Vitale hook and a Sheldon Souray cross check but neither team would score on the man advantage. SOG were 9-4 Penguins.
Second Period: Zach Sill would sit for tripping, what I thought was a ticky tack call from referee Marcus Vinnerborg and Brian Fahey would fire a puck from the point that Boyd Kane would deflect in past Thiessen to tie the game at 1. Do the Pens come unraveled? No. Kyle Greentree would get nabbed for hooking, then :13 later on the power play Maxime Lacroix would board Carl Sneep and the Pens would get 1:47 of a 5 on 3. But, they would not score. That certainly had the looks of a momentum changer there. Geoff Walker must not believe in momentum because later he scored to make it 2-1. Huge goal. Huge, huge, HUGE goal there by Walker. After two periods, 2-1 Penguins and 17-10 shots on goal.
Third Period: Bears would buzz and buzz and buzz. Shots would creep to 18-15 WBS, but with about 6 minutes to go in the game, I don’t think the Penguins allowed the Bears a single shot on goal. Joey Mormina would fire a puck in from the blueline to make it 3-1, then Ryan Craig with Schaefer pulled would score the empty net goal from center ice. Final SOG would be 26-16.
Three Stars: Boyd Kane (goal, -2), Brad Thiessen (15 saves on 16 shots), Geoff Walker (game winning goal, assist, +2)
The Pens by my math are 14-6 at GIANT Center this season. A complete 180 from what they were last year.
Around the Division: Charlotte beat Manchester 3-2. Bingo beat Norfolk 4-1. Adirondack beat Albany 4-3.
Standings: Division lead back to 8, 2 games in hand on Hershey. 90-82. Charlotte has 78 points in third. Norfolk-Binghamton are 75-73 for fourth and fifth. Albany-Adirondack-Syracuse are 52-51-49. Manchester has 83 points. We will also start tracking Portland, who have 81 points in second in the Atlantic. Hamilton leads the North with 74 points and Milwaukee leads the West with 81. The Admirals are my Calder Cup pick as opponent in the Finals vs. the Pens.
This week: Hershey travels to Portland, Wilkes-Barre hosts Connecticut and Binghamton and Charlotte square off in North Carolina all on Tuesday.
Tomorrow I will probably have a late evening post on the Clear Day rosters. Gonna be fun breaking down the East. Until then, Let’s Go Penguins!