If the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have a problem right now, it’s special teams. Plain and simple, clear as day. Special teams.
If they don’t allow the Hartford Wolf Pack to score a power play goal tonight, they win 1-0. They allowed Hartford to score two, and needed to pull starting goaltender Tristan Jarry in the dying minutes of the game when the Wolf Pack added another.
Problems roll into problems. Despite having the strongest team of the season to this point, the once undefeated at home Penguins have now lost their second straight contest at Mohegan Sun Arena by a score of 3-1. They were absolutely shut down in the third period, only shooting at Wolf Pack starter Magnus Hellberg just four times.
Lines were the same from last night save for Tom Kuhnhackl in for Bryan Rust. The thought was that you would let each play two, not three games. Mike Sullivan told Seth Lakso after the game that both should play Sunday in Hershey.
So Carter Rowney was back up on the second line with Kevin Porter and Dominik Simon. Kuhnhackl essentially took Rowney’s spot on the fourth line. The D pairings were untouched.
First Period: Much like last night, a ragged start. Teams traded some early power play chances. Finally it was ex-Penguin and Chirps from Center Ice Hall of Famer Jayson Megna with a power play goal that put Hartford ahead 1-0.
:36 later, Conor Sheary scored on a nice wrist shot from the high slot that went in. It triggered a storm of teddy bears that flew onto the ice:
The first period actually ended with 1:43 left on the clock so they played the…
Second Period: … with 1:43 to begin, blew the whistle, the teams switched ends and began play again. Two posts were hit on both ends. One by Kevin Porter and the other by ex-Penguin Chris Conner.
Temas traded more power play chances, but it was Hartford cashing again when an Adam Tambellini shot deflected off of a Derrick Pouliot skate which changed the angle for Tristan Jarry and got by him for a 2-1 Wolf Pack lead.
Seth had these gems on the current state of the Penguins penalty kill and the man that put them on the kill to start with…
Dominik Uher got in a fight late in the period with Adam Graves. I said and hoped at the time that the fight may inject some life into an otherwise lifeless game for the Penguins.
Shots through two periods were 25-14 Penguins. It seemed like they were getting all the looks they wanted, but were crippled by special teams ineptitude.
Third Period: Penguins couldn’t get anything going at all in the period; be it on special teams when Hartford had more shorthanded chances than anything or even strength with the Pens only taking 4 shots at Hellberg. More trading of power plays ensued. Time was running out. Conor Sheary worked a puck in all alone and Sullivan called Jarry to the bench. Sheary was dispossessed and Chad Nehring hit an empty net to ice the game away.
With about a minute to play and with Jarry out again, the Penguins couldn’t even enter their own zone. That’s how bad it had gotten.
Three Stars: 3) Conor Sheary (goal, even) 2) Jayson Megna (goal, assist, even) and 1) Magnus Hellberg (28 saves on 29 shots)
Around the Division: Portland got two goals in the span of ten seconds with one minute left to play in the third period to defeat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2-1…Anthony Stolarz stole the show again in net for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms but it was Chris Bourque scoring with 20 seconds left to put the Hershey Bears ahead for good 2-1. Stolarz stopped 42 of 44 shots…Providence beats Springfield 3-1 in a game where the Falcons did not get a single power play and one where there were only three all game (bless you, Tom Chmielewski)
Standings: Penguins (.800 percentage points) — Hershey (.614) — Bridgeport (.604) — Springfield (.500) — Lehigh Valley (.479) — Hartford (.478) — Portland (.475) — Providence (.432)
One more Seth gem for the road before we go…
Seth, I don’t know if you read my blog or not, but you have to stop calling them the “Baby Penguins.” It’s my Grade A, number one pet peeve. Relevant tweet otherwise.
Wheeling Update: The Nailers were blitzkrieged tonight by the South Carolina Stingrays by a score of 6-1. Zack Torquato scored the only goal in the loss for the Nailers.
If Coal Street puts up an info graphic or video highlights, I will edit those in. If not, look for the Gameday setup vs. Hershey Sunday at 1 here on the blog.
Let’s Go Pens!!!