Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Mr. Automatic — Pens WIN 3-0

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It’s becoming a trend.

Whenever Matt Murray skates out to the net the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins are defending at the beginning of the game, the Penguins have a chance to win.

What does a goaltender do? Stops shots. Helps the team win. Murray has done his job, masterfully. His #1 status in Wilkes-Barre, the AHL Goaltender of the Month Award for February backs up that statement.

But he is on another planet. Another shutout today, his ninth overall and fourth in a row, breaking a Wilkes-Barre / Scranton team record for consecutive shutouts with four.

But wait, there is more. Murray can make AHL history tomorrow if he skates out to the net the Penguins defend tomorrow afternoon in Springfield and does his job for another 23 more minutes.

That would be the AHL record for consecutive shutout minutes, set by Barry Brust of the now defunct Abbotsfoird Heat a few years ago. The record is 268:17. Murray’s streak is 245:22.

You think Murray is aware of this? You think he cares? You think Head Coach John Hynes is aware of this, you think he cares?

My money bets no. The Penguins are in a playoff battle and are chasing the Hershey Bears for the East Division lead and 6 other teams in the Eastern Conference for a playoff berth. Murray, Hynes and Company are probably more focused on just winning tomorrow against the Falcons and nothing else. The rest is gravy. The Penguins won the game today 3-0.

Murray opposed Patrik Bartosak today in net.

Lines were….

Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Jayson Megna – Adam Payerl
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham

Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Nick D’Agostino – Harrison Ruopp

Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff

Lineup Notes: Josh Archibald was scratched. J-S Dea took warmups but was scratched. I had a booster club member tweet in and tell me that they saw Reid McNeill with a cast on his left hand in the elevator, thus Harrison Ruopp was in for him today. Obie said on the broadcast that he is week to week.

First Period: Penguins opened with a slower pace to start and got physical after every whistle that stopped play. The game plan worked. Forechecking pressure by Dominik Uher caused a turnover by the Monarchs right to Matia Marcantuoni who was parked right in the slot, collected the puck, fired and scored….

[tweet https://twitter.com/nafsnep/status/574308974939533313]

Penguins limited the Manchester chances, let the game come to them, and led the Monarchs in shots 12-8 after the first period.

Second Period: Penguins kept the Monarchs to the outside, played a team centric game and at times smothered the Monarchs, who remember are one of the AHL’s best teams at home and one of the best teams in the AHL all season long. Conor Sheary kept his eye on the puck….

[tweet https://twitter.com/nafsnep/status/574316534170058752]

… and doubled the Penguins lead.

The Penguins continued to pressure the Monarchs. What little momentum they did build was halted when they took a penalty late in the period. The Penguins continued to smother Manchester late.

Third Period: If Murray does make AHL history should he start tomorrow in Springfield, point back to this period as the period that helped him get the record…

1) The Penguins started out on the penalty kill with a late second period penalty to Adam Payerl. Manchester had 1:58 of power play time on clean ice to work with. The Monarchs have the top unit in the AHL.

2) Brian Dumoulin was nabbed for elbowing, putting the Monarchs back on the power play. The Penguins did a good job of holding off the Monarchs power play the last time, but did an even better job this go around because Tom Kuhnhackl scored just the second shorthanded goal of the season for the Penguins here….

[tweet https://twitter.com/nafsnep/status/574330342577934336]

3) Scott Harrington was caught closing his hand on the puck in the crease when there was a mass of bodies in front of the net. After discussion, referees awarded a penalty shot. Sean Backman took it and missed.

4) Monarchs got yet another chance on the power play, but did not capitalize.

Penguins took just five shots in the third. Manchester had seventeen. They threw everything they had at Murray, had the benefits of three power plays and a penalty shot, and came up empty. Remember this is the same Manchester team that subjugated the Penguins the night before.

Three Stars: 3) Tom Kuhnhackl (shorthanded goal, +1) 2) Matia Marcantuoni (goal, +1) and 1) Matt Murray (32 save shutout)

Around the Division: Hershey beat Hartford 5-3 so the lead between Hershey and Wilkes-Barre remains seven to the Bears…Portland beats Lehigh Valley 5-4 in Allentown. Binghamton and Norfolk were idle.

Standings: Hershey 79 — Penguins 72 — Lehigh Valley 59 — Binghamton 56 — Norfolk 51

Conference: 1) HER (79) 2) MCH (77) 3) SYR (74) 4) WBS (72) 5) PRO (70) 6) SPR (70) 7) WOR (68) 8) POR (68)

Wheeling Update: Nailers win 4-3 against Indy in Indiana. Alex Boak had a goal. Big win for Wheeling.

SendToNews Highlights: Manchester doesn’t send them. Click on my replays of everything for all that you need.

Will Murray get the net tomorrow? Will he make history? Tomorrow’s game in Springfield is a 3 p.m. start. Remember to set your clocks ahead one hour!

Let’s Go Pens!

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