You knew coming in to the night that the Hershey Bears were the East Division leaders. Up four points on the Penguins coming into tonight, the Bears are probably one of the hottest teams in the AHL. Let’s look at a quick rundown of some key points.
— 7-0-0-1 in their last eight games.
— 17 wins at home, leads the AHL.
— Have lost just once in regulation in 2015. (A 4-2 loss to Norfolk on January 11)
So you know coming into tonight that the Penguins were heading into an uphill battle tonight.
A 4-3 overtime loss to the Bears. You can add one to the first two points above. Hershey, down 3-1 to start the third period, get a shorthanded goal by Kris Newbury :17 in and build and build momentum until ex-Penguin Chris Conner scores with under five minutes left to tie the game then Mike Moore scores his first as a Bear to win it in overtime.
Jeff Zatkoff hasn’t won a game since beating the Bears on December 31. He opposed Philipp Grubauer.
Scott Wilson – Andrew Ebbett – Bryan Rust
Conor Sheary – Nick Drazenovic – Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Jayson Megna
Bobby Farnham – Matia Marcantuoni – Adam Payerl
Taylor Chorney – Brian Dumoulin
Reid McNeill – Barry Goers
Nick D’Agostino – Alex Boak
Jeff Zatkoff – Matt Murray
Harrison Ruopp took warmups but was scratched. The other healthy scratches were Dominik Uher and Pierre Leblond.
First Period: Penguins came right out and bltizkrieged the Bears with a long offensive zone setup and caught Hershey on their heels. They had two power plays that looked excellent, nothing like the mess that has become synonymous with power plays of Wilkes-Barre’s past. Conor Sheary had two misses of seemingly wide open nets….
Shots were somehow 8-8 in the period, but if you asked someone that watched the period that didn’t look at a shot board, it felt like the Penguins had more shots.
Second Period: Penguins came out sluggish to start but recovered nicely. Stan Galiev scored :57 in after lax neutral zone puck play by Wilkes-Barre. Ex-Penguin Chris Conner is the fastest guy on the ice and set the whole thing up perfectly to Galiev.
But the Penguins needed a response and respond they did.
Taylor Chorney took a cross checking penalty about three minutes after the Galiev goal. Bears to the power play. The Penguins haven’t scored a shorthanded goal all season.
There is only one team left in the AHL that hasn’t scored a shorthanded goal yet. It’s Oklahoma City.
Then the Penguins would head to a power play of their own. Conor Sheary found Nick Drazenovic in the slot. All Drazenovic did was angle his stick out and redirected the puck past Grubauer to make it 2-1 Wilkes-Barre…
Mike O’Brien said afterwards that finding time and space in the slot on the power play was something that the Penguins have worked on in practice recently. It paid off.
Penguins continue to pressure. I couldn’t remember anything resembling a Hershey chance after their opening goal by Galiev in the first minute. The Pens had late offensive zone time. Reid McNeill shot….
… Tom Kuhnhackl finish.
Third Period: The Bears prove to all why they lead the East Division. They were not going to lose this game. :17 in, Kris Newbury gets a breakaway and scores to make it a 3-2 Penguin lead. You knew that at some point the Bears would make a push, but didn’t expect it to be that quickly.
The turning point of the game was when the Penguins found themselves on a 5-on-3 for 1:17. Penguins nearly score one on the two-man advantage, but they made too many passes and Grubauer got to it. Then They took it too the perimeter and that was it.
Bears then get a power play. They get close, but don’t score. Penguins didn’t mount anything that resembled offense and tried to kill off Hershey’s momentum by constantly icing the puck.
It didn’t work. Conner found space in the slot and tied it, forcing…
Overtime: Mike Moore scored 3:24 into overtime sending the Bears fans home happy and Hershey a five point lead over the Penguins in the East Division race with two games in hand over the visitors.
Three Stars: 3) Kris Newbury (goal, assist, +2) 2) Stan Galiev (goal, assist, +2) 1) Chris Conner (goal, assist, +2)
Around the Division: Binghamton wins 4-1 against Lehigh Valley at home, snapping a five game losing streak….Norfolk shuts out Worcester the night before but is shutout by the Sharks 4-0 tonight.
Standings: Hershey 60 — Penguins 55 — Lehigh Valley 47 — Norfolk 43 — Binghamton 40
Conference: 1) SYR (65) 2) MCH (64) 3) HER (60) 4) SPR (60) 5) HFD (58) 6) WOR (55) 7) WBS (55) 8) POR (55)
Wheeling Update: Blown leads must be rampant in the organization tonight as the Wheeling Nailers were up 3-1 in the third, but lost 4-3 to the Cincinnati Cyclones. J-S Dea had a goal for the Nailers. Eric Hartzell took the loss.
SendToNews Highlights: Are here.
Pens bus to Bridgeport tonight. Game is at 3 tomorrow. Gameday for this will be up here on the blog at 11.
Let’s Go Pens!