Penguins are smoking right now. Just finished off a 10-2 month of November and sit two points back of the Syracuse Crunch after handing the Crunch their first regulation road loss of the season. Everything seems to be trending in the right direction, too. The Pens won the game 5-3.
Things seem to be clicking too. The Penguins were 6 for 7 on the penalty kill and 2 for 8 on the power play. The penalty kills came up huge as the Crunch have a unit which is deadly. The thing I liked the most about this game was the fact that the Penguins smothered the Crunch in the opening fifteen minutes of the game. Not only did they run with the “zoom zoom” that the Crunch are on the ice, they stifled them and held them to only one shot on goal for most of the first period. Winning games in the first period, then a “bend not break” mentality in the late stages and you have a recipe for a team on an absolute tear right now.
Jeff Zatkoff vs. Dustin Tokarski — Paul Thompson was a mystery scratch. You guys know, if you read the blog earlier, that Keven Veilleux and Dominik Uher were sent to Wheeling.
First Period: Strange sequence in the opening three minutes. A Philippe Dupuis backhander hits the crossbar and the Penguins fans in attendance start to celebrate a goal. Play continues, finally a Dylan Reese from the blue line is deflected in by Trevor Smith. Referees looked at the Dupuis offering, but it did hit the post. Late pressure by the Penguins, cycling the puck in the Syracuse zone for a good minute lead by Beau Bennett. No dice. Then, while four-on-four late, Syracuse finally scores when Radko Gudas set up Richard Panik for a slam dunk goal to even it at one.
Second Period: The description of what follows will not do justice to what actually happened. Beau Bennett scored an NHL quality goal in close over Tokarski’s left shoulder. There was literally no room for Bennett to shoot except for a small area above Tokarski’s shoulder in the corner of the net. Bennett fit it there for a 2-1 Penguins lead. Then, while on a power play (after multiple WBS kills of Syracuse power plays) Brian Dumoulin scored his first of the season to make it 3-1.
Penguins only allowed 5 Crunch shots on goal that period.
Third Period: Bennett springs Riley Holzapfel on a 100′ saucer pass that Holzapfel had all day to skate in and score to make it 4-1. Big goal at the time because you could almost feel the Crunch pushback coming. It did come, via a Brett Connolly goal, then a Philip-Michael Devos goal. Score is now 4-3. With Tokarski pulled and an extra attacker on, Cory Conacher fans on a bouncing puck. It then finds its way to Trevor Smith who fires a 180-foot dart to seal it.
Three Stars: 3) Brian Dumoulin (goal, even) 2) Beau Bennett (goal, assist, even) and 1) Riley Holzapfel (goal, two assists, even)
Around the Division: The Binghamton Senators have won seven straight. Oh, they also have two games in hand on the Penguins. They hang seven on the Adirondack Phantoms tonight and win 7-4. The Hershey Bears are also righting the ship, winners of three straight, as they cut down the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 5-2. Norfolk was off.
Standings: Syracuse 26 — Binghamton 24 — Penguins 24 — Hershey 19 — Norfolk 14
Standings: 1) SYR (26) 2) SPR (26) 3) STJ (23) 4) BNG (24) 5) WBS (24) 6) MCH (21) 7) BRI (20) 8) POR (20)
Wheeling Update: Nailers win 4-2 over the rival Elmira Jackals 4-2. Keven Veilleux had a goal.
SendtoNews Highlights: Are here. The Bennett goal is there. Hold onto your stomachs. That goal was a beauty.
St. John’s is in tomorrow. Should be an interesting matchup. If things break the right way, the Pens could be in first place in the division at the end of the night. But then there’s games in hand, percentage points, etc. Gameday for that will be up tomorrow at 3 p.m.