Maybe I should shut up and just buy into the hype. Maybe it’s just one game in fourteen more that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have to win, but Kasperi Kapanen’s two goals out of the three scored by the Penguins in 1:40 in the second period is enough to propel the Penguins to a 5-1 win and a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 tomorrow night in Wilkes-Barre.
I say that, because after his dazzling debut against Lehigh Valley a few weeks ago, one where he scored on his first shot on his second shift, Kapanen hasn’t done many things memorable since. He was scratched last weekend due to injury but maybe that was a godsend to step back and regroup and take things in on video and learn. Tonight he was spectacular.
The rest of the Penguins team wasn’t to shabby. Matt Murray made 22 saves on 23 shots to pick up his first postseason win. The Penguins played a disciplined game and beat a good Syracuse side that has not lost 10 of their last 11 games.
The aforementioned Matt Murray vs. Kristers Gudlevskis. Here’s a look at the lines….
Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Josh Archibald – Jayson Megna – Kasperi Kapanen
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Pierre Leblond – Matia Marcantuoni – Bobby Farnham
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Nick D’Agostino
Ryan Parent – Danny Syvret
Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff
Notes: Scott Harrington was re-assigned by Pittsburgh yesterday. Ryan Parent made his Penguins debut. Sean Escobedo took warmups but was scratched. Reid McNeill was back too.
First Period: I said in the Gameday setup that the first period was going to be crucial. You can’t if you are the Penguins give an opponent with a negative goal differential who lost 9 of their last 10 games any breathing room or life in Game 1 of a best of five series.
Well, halfway though, a feeling out process. Scoreless and each side had six shots. Crunch had a power play come and go.
Then the Penguins got what they were looking for. The goal to put them ahead.
Tom Kuhnhackl set up Dominik Uher from smack dab behind the net and Uher smashed it in to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Penguins I noticed, really ran at the Syracuse defensemen on the breakouts. Went right at them and caught them flat foot. Evidenced by a Conor Sheary two on one late. Sheary was waiting for a trailing Kostopoulous but took it himself and shot it right into the belly of Gudlevskis.
Second Period: Boom.
Kasperi Kapanen scored to make it 2-0 off of a Jayson Megna offensive face-off win. Kapanen corralled a puck around bodies and roofed it past Gudlevskis for a 2-0 Penguin lead.
Barry Goers cross ice to Carter Rowney perched on the far side low dot for a one timer and in for a 3-0 Penguins lead.
Penguins could smell the blood in the water. Rob Zettler used his time out to try and calm his Syracuse team down.
It didn’t work.
Barry Goers with a pass off the pads to the wrong man at the time, Kapanen, for a 4-0 Wilkes-Barre lead. Floodgates open. Rout on. That would end Gulevskis night and enter Adam Wilcox, all of two games prior of professional hockey experience.
It actually worked, because the Crunch finally settled, the Penguins fell into a lull that always happens at the euphoria of a multi-goal outburst at a given moment and the Crunch got on the board at fourteen minutes on the dot with a Matthew Peca crash of the net goal that slipped under the pads of Murray to make it 4-1.
Third Period: Syracuse controlled the opening eight minutes until a Slater Koekkoek hold that put the Penguins on a power play. The Crunch would kill it but Danny Syvret would score to make it a 5-1 game which basically iced it away. The Crunch would muck it up after every whistle, but the Penguins held on.
Three Stars: 3) Carter Rowney (goal, two assists, +3) 2) Dominik Uher (goal, assist, +2) and 1) Kasperi Kapenen (two goals, +1)
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: Hershey gets three goals on a 5:00 major power play late to ice the Worcester Sharks in Game 1 of that series by a score of 4-1. Game 2 goes tomorrow from Massachusetts. Hartford is up 1-0 in their series with Providence and Manchester is up 1-0 in theirs with Portland. Game 2’s all tomorrow there.
Wheeling Update: The Nailers lost 4-1 to the Toledo Walleye in Game 4 which ties that series at two games a piece. Eric Hartzell made 25 saves on 29 shots. Game 5 of that series is Saturday at 7:35.
By now you have heard that the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in overtime to the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 5, essentially ending their season. I would expect that Taylor Chorney, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Wilson and Derrick Pouliot be reassigned to Coal Street most likely Sunday. Pouliot may take longer because he is recovering from injury. I wouldn’t rule out the Penguins just sending him home and him not coming here, to be honest. I’d be shocked if Chorney, Dumoulin and Wilson are re-assigned and in town for Saturday’s Game 2 vs. Syracuse. You have to give them time to get back to Pittsburgh with the rest of the team, decompress and go through the exit interview process. I would say that if Wilkes-Barre is going to get any help from Pittsburgh in the form of reinforcements, that it comes in time for Game 3 in Syracuse next Wednesday. Who knows.
Gameday for Game 2 vs. Syracuse hits the blog at 3 p.m. as the Pens look for the commanding 2-0 series lead.
Let’s Go Pens!