The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have been slumping as of late. They just sloughed off a six game losing streak when they beat the St. John’s IceCaps at home back in Wilkes-Barre.
You don’t all of a sudden just snap out of a losing streak and look like world beaters again. You may have gotten lucky in the game that saw your losing streak end. A bounce here or there and, you got lucky. Usually, what plagued you in the losing streak rears its ugly head once again.
Well, for the Penguins, they almost got caught in the closet with the ghosts that brought them that losing streak.
Enter Andrew Ebbett. Down from Pittsburgh during the NHL All-Star break. Ebbett has been a point producer for the Penguins at the AHL level. That continued tonight as his two goals ignites the Penguins over the Norfolk Admirals by a score of 4-2.
Ebbett wasn’t the only player down from Pittsburgh. Derrick Pouliot and Scott Harrington were down too. It was the strongest lineup in months for the Penguins. Lines looked like this…
Conor Sheary – Nick Drazenovic – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Andrew Ebbett – Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Jayson Megna
Dominik Uher – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham
Taylor Chorney – Brian Dumoulin
Reid McNeill – Barry Goers
Scott Harrington – Derrick Pouliot
Matt Murray – Eric Hartzell
Injured G Jeff Zatkoff’s status is “officially week-to-week” per Obie. Adam Payerl started skating this week and is still, “week to week” and is on the trip with the Penguins.
Josh Archibald took warmups but was scratched. Other healthy scratches were J-S Dea and Nick D’Agostino. Pierre Leblond served the second of his three game suspension.
First Period: Penguins really jumped on the Admirals from the start, getting pucks and bodies behind the Norfolk defense. Finally Nick Drazenovic chipped this pass to Conor Sheary who had John Gibson out of position and backhanded it by him for a goal and a 1-0 Penguins lead. Wilkes-Barre was the beneficiary of two power plays, but failed to score. Bobby Farnham was in the middle of everything early on and drew the second penalty called on the Admirals.
Second Period: Felt like an exact opposite of the first period for the Penguins, who looked lifeless at times during the period. They got scored on. Twice. The first goal was a weird one. The Penguins just killed a penalty and the Admirals were streaking up ice, Chris Wagner tries a cross ice pass that deflects off of Scott Harrington and in past Murray and in.
Teams traded some more power plays. Late, Barry Goers goes into the box for a high stick and Andrew O’Brien slams home a big rebound left by Matt Murray to put the Admirals up 2-1.
In the final minute, with 37.1 left, Andrew Ebbett scored this goal to bring the Penguins even again. It was a nice shot that went cross bar and in.
Wilkes-Barre was lucky to come out of the period tied. Just a forgettable period by Wilkes-Barre standards.
Third Period: Penguins had to kill about 1:45 of a Norfolk power play to open and nearly got scored on. Louis Leblanc appeared to have scored a goal, but referee Mark Lemelin lost sight of the puck and ruled that the puck had entered the net after the whistle had blown.
Huge break for the Penguins there. Wilkes-Barre had to go back on the kill again and Norfolk came dangerously close to scoring again, but the Penguins killed the penalty successfully.
Then, the Penguins edged ahead on a Norfolk turnover. Scott Wilson was looking for a streaking Carter Rowney but instead found the stick of Andrew O’Brien who inadvertently directed the puck into his own net past Gibson to give the Penguins the lead.
Penguins had a late power play. I have said it on a number of occasions before, but if Wilkes-Barre had anything that resembled a decent power play, they could use that to put teams away. Tonight would have been a prime time to do so.
With under a minute to play, the Penguins possessed the puck for a good :30. Norfolk finally got Gibson out of the net, but Ebbett won a neutral zone face-off that went the length of the ice and into the empty net to extend the lead for the Penguins to 4-2 with about 10 seconds left to play.
Three Stars: 3) Mark Fistric (-1) 2) Andrew Ebbett (two goals, +2) and 1) Scott Wilson (goal, assist, +2)
Around the Division: Hershey was idle tonight, so the Penguins have played now three more games than the Bears. St. John’s beat Binghamton 5-2 and Syracuse beat Lehigh Valley 4-2.
Standings: Hershey 49 — Penguins 48 — Lehigh Valley 43 — Binghamton 38 — Norfolk 36
Conference: 1) MCH (58) 2) SPR (56) 3) HER (49) 4) SYR (55) 5) HFD (53) 6) POR (49) 7) ALB (48) 8) WBS (48)
Wheeling Update: Nailers win at home 5-4 over the Fort Wayne Komets. Riley Brace had 4 assists.
SendToNews Highlights: Admirals put out a YouTube package, so let’s run that instead…
These two teams rematch tomorrow at 7:15 in Virginia. Gameday for that will be up at 3:15.
Let’s Go Pens!