The Penguins were in trouble in this game before it was :43 old.
That was when Monarchs forwards Jordan Weal tracked down a puck that Penguins goaltender Matt Murray batted up in the air and swept past the Wilkes-Barre net minder for a 1-0 Monarchs lead at :42 and a lead they would not relinquish as they roll to a 5-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and a commanding 3-1 series lead.
The Monarchs are undefeated when they score first this postseason. It was the first road win for Manchester since 2013.
Oh. That Weal kid. He wasn’t done. He had a hat trick. After being held off of the score sheet in Game Three, he was everywhere tonight and made the Penguins pay.
No lineup changes for the Penguins in Game Four.
The Penguins had two opportunities to get back into the game in the first period on two power plays but did not score. You could look at this game and see many turning points. The Weal goal at :42 is certainly one and the Penguin inability to score on two power plays in the first was certainly another.
Wilkes-Barre went on another power play to open the second period but Manchester scored shorthanded on a Michael Mersch dart of a shot on a two-on-one with Brian Dumoulin back.
Wheels came off after that. Manchester scores on a blatant offsides call when Weal gets a piece of a Colin Miller blast from the blue line that made it 3-0. Terrible non-call from the officials and you would expect better out of an officiating crew that gets games on merit at this point in the season, but the Penguins did not lose the game because of the officiating.
Manchester made it 4-0 about four minutes later when Nick Shore was marked by a stickless Barry Goers and passed to David Van der Gulick on the opposite high dot for a one timer.
Murray was touched for three goals on twelve shots in the second period. Remember his body of work in the regular season? Murray wouldn’t let three goals in during an entire weekend. He was replaced by Jeff Zatkoff to start the third period.
Weal finished off his hat trick in the third period on a power play with Andrew Ebbett in the penalty box for a 5-0 Manchester lead.
Penguins made it interesting by scoring two goals in a span of :37. Nick Drazenovic from his stomach passed to Tom Kostopoulos who slipped it under J-F Berube’s pads to break up the Berube shutout. Then Bryan Rust powered around a Manchester defenseman for another goal.
Monarchs head coach Mike Stothers used his time out to stop the bleeding. Hynes pulled Zatkoff with about six minutes to play looking for the Hail Mary but instead came up empty.
Three stars were Van der Gulick with a goal and an assist and a +1, Michael Mersch with a goal, an assist and a +3 and Jordan Weal with three goals and a +2.
I’ll run the in-depth numbers tomorrow, but Taylor Chorney was a -2, Conor Sheary picked up another point, he has had one in every game for the Penguins this Spring but was a -2. Derrick Pouliot pinched too deep during a sequence which led to a Manchester goal, Kasperi Kapanen was invisible tonight, Andrew Ebbett hasn’t scored a goal in the series yet. I could go on and on. But it’s piling on. I said to many at the game tonight that if the Penguins don’t somehow manage the impossible and beat Manchester that the Monarchs will probably win the Calder Cup.
Think about it. The Penguins lineup is the best and deepest its been in years, if not ever. Murray is the Goaltender and Rookie of the Year. Wilkes-Barre is well coached, and the top defensive team in the AHL for the fourth out of five years under John Hynes. Kapanen, Sheary, Rust, Pouliot, Dumoulin, Chorney, Harrington, etc. all have pedigree and will go on to long NHL careers but right now it’s men against boys. If you put all those accolades in a jar and told someone who is knowledgeable about the game of hockey to watch this series and then at the end of the series tell them that the team that is being dismantled right now is the Penguins, they probably wouldn’t believe you. That’s how much better the Monarchs are right now.
Never give up the ship. Keep the faith. Game 5 tomorrow. We’ll set it up at 3 with the Gameday setup, attend the game at 7 p.m. tomorrow and let it ride.
Let’s Go Pens!