For all the hype that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins had on getting a cavalry back from Pittsburgh between games two and three, it was a player on an AHL contract that made the difference tonight.
Conor Sheary’s two goals and an assist were the difference in Game 3 as the Penguins are onto the next round after a 5-2 win in Syracuse which completes the sweep of the Crunch. Wilkes-Barre has won a playoff series for at least 12 of the last 13 Calder Cup post seasons.
The Penguins struck for three power play goals, which won them the game and probably the series. The Pens were 6/14 in this series and this is what carried them in Game 2 and again in Game 3. Syracuse’s penalty kill was the bottom 25 in the 30 team AHL this regular season. It’s not the best gauge to see how the Penguins stack up special teams wise going forward, but you take them how they come.
The Penguins will not know their opponent in the second round until at least Friday. More on that later.
Matt Murray vs. Kristers Gudlevskis.
With all of the reinforcements arriving from Pittsburgh Sunday, this was the look at the lines in Game 3.
Conor Sheary – Andrew Ebbett – Tom Kostopoulos
Scott Wilson – Jayson Megna – Kasperi Kapanen
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Uher
Pierre Leblond – J-S Dea – Bobby Farnham
Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Scott Harrington – Barry Goers
Reid McNeill – Derrick Pouliot
Matt Murray – Jeff Zatkoff
Josh Archibald took warmups but was scratched. Scott Wilson took Archibald’s spot on the second line. On defense, Dumoulin, Chroney and Pouliot were in for Nick D’Agostino, Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret.
First Period: Syracuse believed at the end of Game 2 that they were the better team at five-on-five and it showed in this first period of Game 3. Penguins strike first on the power play on this busted play…
Sheary had it in the high slot, saw a shot blocker in front, dished to Wilson who one timed it in.
Game settled down a bit then Yanni Gourde scored on a similar play to the Wilson power play goal. He was in front and chipped in a puck over Murray for the tie game. That goal ended 102:53 of shutout playoff hockey by Matt Murray.
Bobby Farnham was under the skin of the Crunch all period. He and David Broll tangle after a save by Murray in close. Broll knocks him over but the referee takes both of them. Then, late in the period with seconds remaining, Farnham loses out on an icing race with Luke Witkowski. Witkowski chases him to the neutral zone and tackles him, refs take both. I felt that if it was any one other than Farnham in that situation, the Penguins would have been awarded a power play.
Second Period: Conor Sheary had all day and did not miss…..
I mean it was the parting of the Red Sea there.
Pens continued to apply forechecking which led to sustained offensive zone pressure. Penguins outshot the Crunch 9-6 and took command heading into the….
Third Period: Power play came to life.
J-P Cote boards Farnham. Conor Sheary again…
The exact copy of the Wilson goal from the first. Blocked lane in front of the shooter in the high slot, dish off to far man, in this case Sheary, for a one time and in.
Crunch took another penalty, this time a too many men on the ice infraction, and the Penguins cashed again. Derrick Pouliot….
The Penguins were perfect on the power play tonight.
But, there was way too much time on the clock. Syracuse made a game of it as a puck deflected off of Sheary and through the pads of Matt Murray and in for a 4-2 Penguin lead. Time slowed to a crawl. John Hynes called his time out to stop whatever possible run that Syracuse thought that they had. It worked.
Game hit a lull. Matt Murray, though. Chest save on a shot after a serious offensive presence from the Crunch out of the time out. Felt like the Pens were clinging to a two goal lead.
More saves from Murray. Stops a fluttering shot from a Slater Koekkoek shot from the blue line. Glove save through a screen. Desperation set in for the Crunch and they pulled Gudlevskis and Andrew Ebbett hit an empty net to ice it away.
Three Stars: 3) Derrick Pouliot (goal, assist, +1) 2) Yanni Gourde (goal, assist, +1) and 1) Conor Sheary (two goals, assist, -1)
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: Most of the games tonight were Western Conference match ups. Only the Hershey Bears, with a chance to close out their series with the Worcester Sharks, lost 4-1 tonight. That series will see a Game 4, on Friday. Manchester and Portland have a Game 4 Thursday in Portland. Providence and Hartford play a decisive Game 5 Friday.
It’s too much to keep up with. We’ll know when we know.
Wheeling Update: Nailers lose in overtime in Game 7 against the Toledo Walleye on a shorthanded goal by a score of 2-1. Heartbreaking loss for the Nailers who game the ECHL’s regular season champion Walleye a run to the seventh game in overtime.
Postseason Chart big board is updated here.
Next blog will be when the next opponent is known or if not an update on what is going on no later than Saturday.
Let’s Go Pens!!!