The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinal for a fourth year in a row and end the Binghamton Senators season by a score of 5-1 on the very same day that they did last year, May 2.
Tonight’s game had two things which stood out.
1) The stellar play of goaltender Peter Mannino. Mannino kept the Penguins in the game early and the B-Sens out of serious consideration for a comeback late.
2) The Binghamton Senators season imploded on discipline. The B-Sens took nine penalties which the Penguins scored on two of. There were two occasions where the Penguins were called for a penalty but the after the whistle stuff caused the B-Sens to lose their cool and the referees saw it, and the Penguins came away with the power play instead.
The B-Sens came out flying to start, outshooting Wilkes-Barre 8-2 to open. Mannino stood tall. One of the many saves that he made which stood out was a stop on Jean-Gabriel Pageau cutting to the net that kept the B-Sens off the board. Thrill a minute hockey.
Then a sequence that turned the tide in favor of the Penguins so much so that the Binghamton Senators were not able to recover. Chris Wideman takes a delay of game penalty. On the ensuing face-off, Chuck Kobasew appears to score, but the puck hits the crossbar and bounces out. Or does it? Play continues. Later, replay clearly shows the puck go inside the net and hit off the top of the back support and bounce out. Goal.
Penguins all of a sudden find themselves on a 5×3. But, Binghamton kills off the first penalty and then Mannino with a belly save on Patrick Mullen when the B-Sens were in on a shorthanded three-on-one.
There is where I think the game was won for the Penguins and lost for the B-Sens. It could have easily been 4-0 Senators after one but Mannino’s spectacular play in net kept it 1-0 Pens.
Penguins open the second period with 1:23 of carryover power play. All of a sudden, another 5×3 for the Pens when David Dziurzynski gets whistled for a high stick. Brian Dumoulin steps into one from the blue line late and makes it 2-0 Pens. Later, Dominik Uher scores even strength to put the Pens ahead 3-0.
Binghamton used its timeout and started a pushback. But tempers flared. Corey Cowick is whistled for slashing, Barry Goers is called for hooking and Darren Kramer for roughing. The initial call I think was the Goes hook. Then, after the whistle, Kramer and Cowick get called for their penalties and the Penguins are the ones on the power play.
Pens do not score. On four on four, the B-Sens nearly do. They were so dangerous on four on four tonight.
Chuck Kobasew dives at a puck and knocks it to Andrew Ebbett who skates in unabated to make it 4-0 Penguins. At this point, the rout was on.
Binghamton again doesn’t do themselves any favors. Zach Sill is called for charging. Stephane Da Costa, after the whistle, gets called for slashing then unsportsmanlike to put the Penguins on the power play.
The B-Sens score early in the third period when Certified Penguin Killer™ Shane Prince cashed on a power play to make things interesting and 4-1 Penguins. After a bad shift, John Hynes uses his time out to settle things down.
Try as they might, the Senators did not score and the Penguins withstood wave after wave of Binghamton pressure and maintained the three goal advantage.
Peter Mannino. Not to be forgotten. Three monstrous saves. Alex Grant through a screen. Try again. Scramble in front. It does not go in. Jean-Gabriel Pageau attempts to slip it five hole. You get nothing and like it.
Head Coach Luke Richardson pulls starting goaltender Andrew Hammond with 4:30 left. Harry Zolnierczyk, playing alpha and omega, scores the last goal of the series into an empty net. Zolnierczyk scored the first goal of the series (for the Penguins) last week up in Binghamton.
Bryan Rust was slashed on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot with 17.9 seconds left. He made too many moves and was stopped by Hammond.
Three Stars: 3) Brian Dumoulin (goal, assist, +1) 2) Peter Mannino (26 saves on 27 shots) and 1) Andrew Ebbett (goal, two assists, +1)
Lineup Changes: Essentially the aforementioned Bryan Rust for Anton Zlobin, who was injured in Game 3. Spencer Machacek was the veteran scratch.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: St. John’s closed out Albany tonight 4-1….Norfolk does the same to the top seeded Manchester Monarchs 3-2.
Wheeling Update: The Nailers start their second round series with the Greenville Road Warriors tomorrow at home. How about this tweet from them though…
SendToNews Highlights: How about YouTube, instead?
The Penguins opponent is still to be determined. The Springfield Falcons host the Providence Bruins Saturday night in a decisive Game 5. If Springfield wins, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will play the St. John’s IceCaps. If the Providence Bruins win, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will play the Providence Bruins and will have home ice advantage.
I will have an update Saturday night on the blog with the opponent and the schedule once Springfield makes that matrix available.
Let’s Go Pens!