I think there were three things that led to the outcome tonight, a 4-1 Wilkes-Barre win over the Springfield Falcons.
- The Penguins are just too good of a team collectively to lose any more than two or three games in a row. There are a lot of bad teams in the AHL and despite these last three games, the Penguins are not one of them.
- The Return of Matt Murray. Say what you want, the Pens are a different, more confident team, when he is back there tending the nets.
- The Patrick McGrath Factor. The Shavertown native and local grown product was on the ice tonight and was the fuse that sparked the dynamite which was the Wilkes-Barre offense with a big time tilt with Springfield’s Eric Selleck. Selleck is five inches and 18 pounds heavier than the 5’10, 200 pound McGrath.
It was almost scripted the way that the Selleck-McGrath fight came to be, which I will get to in the story.
Matt Murray opposed Niklas Treutle.
Josh Archibald – J-S Dea – Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl – Carter Rowney – Dominik Simon
Dominik Uher – Oskar Sundqvist – Tom Kostopoulos
Ty Loney – Sahir Gill – Patrick McGrath
Derrick Pouliot – Adam Clendening
Tim Erixon – Will O’Neill
Reid McNeill – Niclas Andersen
Matt Murray – Casey DeSmith
McGrath took the spot of John McCarron on the fourth line as the only lineup change.
First Period: Falcons jumped out ahead at 1:17 when ex-Penguin Dustin Jeffrey knocks home a puck that Derrick Pouliot failed to clear out of in front of Murray’s crease. Later, the Falcons were pressuring in the offensive zone when the puck skipped over a defenseman’s stick and barely out. During the confusion of the fact that everyone needed to get back onsides again, J-S Dea found Josh Archibald for a breakaway that Archibald finished to even the game at one a piece. It was Archibald’s first goal of the season and long overdue.
Then, late, Eric Selleck and Tom Kostopoulous got tangled up in front of the Penguins bench. Pushing and shoving occurred. You knew what came next, eventually McGrath was going to fight Selleck.
Second Period: After another penalty by Derrick Pouliot which was killed by the Penguins, Tim Erixon shot the puck from the point and Tom Kostopoulos deflected it home for a 2-1 Penguins lead.
Then off the face-off, Eric Selleck made a bad choice:
Back to my scripted analogy, you have the bad guy (Selleck) messing with the good guy / legend (Kostopoulos) in the backyard of the hero (McGrath) who also happens to be and play for the local hockey team. The hero pummels the bad guy and the Penguins go on to score two more goals, a Sahir Gill rebound goal of a Reid McNeill shot and then a Bryan Rust power play goal after the Falcons had called a timeout after the Gill goal and the rout was on.
The Penguins were running circles on the Falcons and having fun again. Three goals in the span of 3:17. The local kid playing for the local team with the spark to get it all going. Happy days are here again.
Third Period: Nothing really of substance to note. Wilkes-Barre killed two power plays. Clark Donatelli collected his first AHL win.
Three Stars: 3) Carter Rowney (two assists, +1) 2) Matt Murray (30 saves on 31 shots) and 1) Tom Kostopoulos (goal, even)
Worth noting the following:
And more importantly…
So it will be either Casey DeSmith or Brian Foster in net Sunday in Hartford. I have a feeling it may be DeSmith. Who knows, though.
Around the Division: Hershey beats Binghamton 6-5 in overtime after overcoming a 5-1 deficit….Bridgeport beat Rochester 4-3 in overtime….Albany beat Hartford 4-3 and Portland beat Lehigh Valley 4-3 in overtime up in Maine.
Standings: Penguins (.726 percentage points) — Portland (.597) — Hershey (.588) — Bridgeport (.586) — Lehigh Valley (.500) — Providence (.455) — Hartford (.455) — Springfield (.424)
Wheeling Update: The
Nailers Thunderbirds beat the Brampton Beast on Throwback Night by a score of 5-1. With Fort Wayne beating Toledo tonight 2-1, that draws Wheeling 4 points behind the Walleye for the North Division lead.
Here are the video highlights from Coal Street:
Pens travel to Hartford for a 3 pm start, with the Gameday setup hitting the blog here Sunday at 11 am.
Let’s Go Pens!