Understaffed is the wrong word for this one. So is undermanned. The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins skated with a full contingent of players tonight in a 3-2 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Pink in the Rink Night.
Inexperienced is probably a better term to use or disjointed maybe with all of the roster shuffling in recent weeks.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers now have won six games in a row. The Penguins meanwhile dig out of a 0-3 hole at the end of the first period and nearly came back to win.
Penguins played terrible in the first half of the game then started to turn it on with starting goaltender Tristan Jarry settling into a grove.
Jarry opposed Christopher Gibson.
Ty Loney – Kael Mouillierat – Josh Archibald
Anton Zlobin – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Sestito – J-S Dea – Derek Army
John McCarron – Jarrett Burton – Patrick McGrath
Reid McNeill – Steve Oleksy
Tim Erixon – Will O’Neill
Niclas Andersen – Ryan Parent
Tristan Jarry – Matt Murray
Lineup Notes: Jarrett Burton was signed earlier in the day to a PTO with Matia Marcantuoni down with injury. Burton was Wheeling’s leading scorer at the time. He took Marcantuoni’s place centering the fourth line. That was the only change for the Pens coming off Friday’s win against Springfield.
First Period: Pens took three straight penalties in the period. They get scored on even strength when a defender loses Jared Gomes streaking down the far side. Gomes went up the wing and scores on a shot that beat Jarry clean and it was 1-0 Sound Tigers.
Then the Sound Tigers league worst power play scored seconds after a Ryan Parent hook when an Alan Quine shot from the point found its way in for a 2-0 Bridgeport lead. Jarry was badly screened on that attempt by Quine.
The Penguins were running all over the place and almost into each other trying to match the pace of the Sound Tigers. Then, they lost Ben Holmstrom behind Jarry’s net for a second. Holmstrom finds Justin Vaive on the far side and Vaive connects for a goal that made it 3-0.
Shots after the first period were every bit of 14-5 in favor of the Sound Tigers. Jarry was the reason that it wasn’t 6 or 7-0. The Penguins looked and played overmatched and were not playing as a team. How could they when it’s constantly one or two guys out of the lineup because of injury or call-up.
Second Period: Penguins kept it a 3-0 deficit and killed a couple of Bridgeport penalties. Then, Carter Rowney scored to put the Penguins on the board at 3-1. Off of the ensuing face-off the Penguins nearly scored again and were starting to come alive when the horn sounded to end the period. Of note here, Will O’Neill picked up an assist on the Rowney goal. O’Neill has 13 points in his last 13 games.
Third Period: Carter Rowney picked up a bouncing puck, took it to his right through some Sound Tigers defensemen, drew Gibson out of his net and beat him to cut the deficit to one with 13:12 to play in the period.
Penguins then got a power play and nearly scored on it with several chances. Pens were continuing to push when Steve Oleksy was called for slashing. They killed that then Gomes was called for a slash of his own. Wilkes-Barre called their timeout, but with Jarry eventually pulled and the Penguins skating six men to four, they never found the equalizer.
Moral of this one is that a 0-3 hole after the first period is tough for even the healthiest of teams to battle back from because you are constantly chasing the game.
Three Stars: 3) Ben Holmstrom (two assists, +2) 2) Justin Vaive (game winning goal, +1) 1) Carter Rowney (two goals, +2)
Around the Division: Hershey inches closer to surpassing the Penguins for tops in the Atlantic. They beat the Lehigh Valley Phantoms by a score of 5-1….Albany shuts out Hartford 3-0….Providence beats Portland 3-1….Springfield doubles up Syracuse 6-3.
Standings: Penguins (.674 percentage points) — Hershey (.635) — Portland (.589) — Providence (.565) — Bridgeport (.564) — Hartford (.532) — Lehigh Valley (.490) — Springfield (.457)
In case you are wondering, the Hershey Bears cannot surpass the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins for first place this weekend no matter if they win in the only AHL game on the schedule on Super Bowl Sunday against the Binghamton Senators. Even if the Penguins lose Tuesday to the Utica Comets, the percentage points then would be .660. It’s mainly because the Penguins have games in hand on Hershey that is the difference in the percentage points thing that the AHL has us ranked by this season (thanks, California) so while the margins are going to be close, Hershey still has work to do.
That’s right, the Pens and Bears still have to play each other eight more times.
Wheeling Update: Predictably, the undermanned and understaffed Wheeling Nailers lost 6-0 to the Reading Royals tonight. The Nailers played with eight forwards.
I doubt there will be video highlights but if I see any and can work and edit in, I’ll put it here.
Pens have a date in Utica Tuesday. My Power Rankings will hit the blog Monday at 4 at their usual time. The big board chart refresh will update sometime Sunday afternoon.
Let’s Go Pens!!!