Two sides to this one, a 5-4 Penguins win against the Hershey Bears and the first home win for Wilkes-Barre / Scranton since January 9 of this year against the Utica Comets.
The one side says that take this game and throw it away. Nothing that you can take from the third game in three days for both teams facing off against the backups, Justin Peters for Hershey and Brian Foster for Wilkes-Barre. Both backups were virtual sieves in the first period, a period that saw seven goals. Put it this way, it’s a different game for Wilkes-Barre if Tristan Jarry starts tonight and a different game for Hershey if Dan Ellis started the night.
The other side says that no matter what, a response was needed from the team in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Maybe you throw away the final score and take the Penguins reaction in the games first ten minutes of this one, a Patrick McGrath fight with Liam O’Brien :08 in, two goals for each team and no easy space for either side as something out of it. After getting thrashed in Hershey the night before, firing a limp 14 shots on Bears nets on Saturday, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins got the jump on the Hershey Bears from within the first ten seconds of the game and sent a message that they were not going to take the Bears smashing them up and down the ice and that if Hershey was going to win the game, they would do so bruised and bloodied.
It was an exciting game. Probably the most exciting game under the Clark Donatelli Era. The Penguins were prepared and reacted to everything.
It was the aforementioned Brian Foster against Justin Peters.
The braintrust at Coal Street did GIFs of the Penguins goals so they will run in this recap. Jump though.
Kael Mouillierat – Dustin Jeffrey – Dominik Simon
Mattias Plachta – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Ty Loney – J-S Dea – Josh Archibald
Patrick McGrath – Jarrett Burton – Tyler Biggs
Ryan Parent – Niclas Andersen
Tim Erixon – Steve Oleksy
Will O’Neill – Barry Goers
Brian Foster – Tristan Jarry
Lineup Notes: Bunch of moves made pregame. To Pittsburgh were Tom Sestito and Conor Sheary. Down was Josh Archibald. Up from Wheeling were Tyler Biggs and Harrison Ruopp. Personnel wise on the ice, it was Goers for Reid McNeill and Tyler Biggs for Anton Zlobin.
I wouldn’t read much into Reid McNeill being scratched. It was just a healthy scratch. McNeill has been exposed a ton defensively, being on the ice for a lot of goals scored against. The day off will hopefully rest him and put a charge into him.
First Period: You could tell with the starting lineup that Clark Donatelli put out there that he wanted to send a message. :08 in, Patrick McGrath went with Liam O’Brien. McGrath was assessed an extra two minutes for instigating as O’Brien didn’t want to fight him. The plan of a fight off the drop of the puck worked, but giving Hershey a power play, one where they connected three times the night before, wasn’t in the game plan.
Penguins killed the penalty. Then seconds later, Peters comes out to play the puck, is dispossessed by Tom Kostopoulos bearing down, Kostopoulos passed to a cutting Carter Rowney who scored to put the Pens up 1-0:
Hershey would quickly answer, as Tyler Lewington took a shot from the blue line which deflected off of Steve Oleksy in front and in for a tie game.
Hershey would strike again on the power play when Aaron Ness smoked one past Foster to put the Bears up 2-1. The Pens were down two men on a 4-on-3. Ness just cranked up and blasted it past Foster and in for the power play goal.
Undeterred, Wilkes-Barre would answer right back.
Tom Kostopoulos, playing in his 600th AHL game joining Dave Creighton, Jim Morrison and Shawn Thornton as the only players to play 600 games in the NHL and the AHL, wheeled around the Hershey net and left a long stretch pass to J-S Dea who roofed it home. Full extension by Dea to collect the pass, himself and then shoot to tie things at two a piece.
Later, the Penguins found themselves on 1:48 of a 5-on-3. Head Coach Clark Donatelli used his time out. The Penguins simply needed to connect. Dustin Jeffrey hit the post. Finally, Carter Rowney scored his second of the period as the puck tricked in past Peters and in to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead.
Pens connected again on the power play later when Dominik Simon sniped home this nice goal that doubled the Penguins lead.
Then Hershey would find themselves on a 5-on-3 for an extended amount of time when Brian Foster makes an initial save, a rebound caroms off of him to the stick of Riley Barber who legally knocks the puck into the net that cut the deficit to one for the Penguins.
And exhale. This postgame recap is already up to 830 words.
Second Period: Wilkes-Barre came out sniffing for another goal. They set up shop in the Bears zone and were getting looks. Hershey gets it out then Aaron Ness scored his second of the game with a long shot from the blue line. Steve Oleksy was partially screening Foster in front against but that’s a save that you have to make if you are a goaltender at the AHL level. I mean that play is something you see in pee wee’s.
Game then settled into a rhythm, by that I mean there wasn’t a penalty every minute or a goaltender fishing a puck out of his net every two.
Then the games turning point.
Tyler Biggs, fresh off of injured reserve, has his head down in the neutral zone and is crushed with a clean open ice hit by Garrett Mitchell. Patrick McGrath, already on one fight so if he fights again he’s ejected, comes over and immediately confronts Mitchell. Mitchell doesn’t do anything and the Bears get a power play. Uh oh.
Carter Rowney to the rescue. Shorthanded.
Three goals, three different ways for Rowney. Even strength, power play and shorthanded. This one made it 5-4.
Amazing how the game can turn on one single play. Pens go from matching the Bears intensity to defending a power play on their heels to celebrating a Rowney shorthanded goal in a span of about three minutes.
The first hat trick for the Penguins since Jayson Megna on April 18, 2015.
Tyler Biggs didn’t return for the…
Third Period: Teams traded power plays in the first six minutes of the period, then no shots were being shipped to the goaltenders that challenged either. The Penguins ended up outshooting the Bears 15-5 in the period. Late, with Peters pulled and the Bears on a 6-on-4, Hershey hits a post, Nic Andersen sweeps a puck out of the crease and the Pens win the game.
Three Stars: 3) Aaron Ness (two goals, -1) 2) Tom Kostopoulos (three assists, +3) 1) Carter Rowney (three goals, +2)
Around the Division: Bridgeport beats Hartford 3-2. That loss by the Wolf Pack dropped the Penguins and Bears magic numbers before Pens and Bears even started…Providence beats Portland in overtime 4-3…Syracuse doubles up Springfield 6-3. Lehigh Valley was off.
Standings: Hershey (.650 percentage points) — Penguins (.636) — Providence (.595) — Portland (.579) — Bridgeport (.576) — Hartford (.517) — Lehigh Valley (.492) — Springfield (.422)
Wheeling Update: The Nailers were off.
Coal Street infographic:
And video highlights:
I will have my charts updated by the end of the night Sunday with an auto tweet Tuesday on the Twitter side and the Week 22 Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings on the blog Monday at 4.
Tomorrow is the AHL trade deadline. I don’t think that the Penguins make any moves but stranger things have happened. Any reactions to any transactions from Coal Street will be met with a blog post here.
Final count on the words tonight, 1303.
Let’s Go Pens!*
* – 1306