Two shorthanded goal by Kevin Porter 1:19 apart in the second period were enough for Casey DeSmith and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins to get past the Syracuse Crunch by a score of 3-1. Porter assisted on a Dominik Simon goal in crunch time (no pun intended) in the third period also.
Strange game to recap really. Syracuse was a mess on the power play and there were a lot of them, 13 in total, but referees Keith Kaval and Pierre Lambert were forced into making the calls on what was blatant fouls.
Casey DeSmith opposed Adam Wilcox. It was DeSmith’s first start of the season.
Jake Guentzel – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Dominik Simon – Kevin Porter – Reid Gardiner
Garrett Wilson – J-S Dea – Josh Archibald
Adam Krause – Jarrett Burton – Ryan Haggerty
Reid McNeill – Chad Ruhwedel
Tim Erixon – Steve Oleksy
Cameron Gaunce – Barry Goers
Casey DeSmith – Tristan Jarry.
Patrick McGrath skated warmups. Here were the lineup changes:
Stuart Percy is week to week with a lower body injury per Clark Donatelli as told to the WBS media after the game. More on him in a minute. Ethan Prow was recalled from Wheeling earlier today but did not dress. Barry Goers took his spot on the blue line. The biggest knock against Percy is that he cannot stay healthy. He missed a lot of time last year with the Toronto Marlies last year and hasn’t really played a full season since 2013-14. Remember though that Josh Archibald initially was considered week to week and he never missed a game. So who knows, but it doesn’t look good for Percy.
The other lineup changes were Oskar Sundqvist out tonight because he is still banged up and Donatelli didn’t want him to play three straight games this weekend. Adam Krause and Jarrett Burton were in for Sundqvist and Sahir Gill. Reid Gardiner bumped up to the second line.
First Period: Old teammates Reid McNeill and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond fought about midway through the period. This was the turning point for the Penguins in the game because they were being outshot and all of their shot attempts were being blocked. Leblond, the pro that he is in fighting, yoked up McNeill and didn’t allow much fists thrown, but Pierre was cut in the fight, either by a fist or the edge of a helmet.
Casey DeSmith was named second star of the game, and he earned it, as his key stops in the first period really kept the Penguins around. There wasn’t any scoring in the first period, but a lot of what happened in the first set things up for the game.
Second Period: Adam Wilcox had a great save in full splits on Carter Rowney while the Pens were on a power play. Pens were outshooting the Crunch 12-4 since the McNeill fight.
Then, Kevin Porter scored his first shorthanded goal. Porter got free after Reid McNeill got a stick on puck, cleared to Josh Archibald who found Porter who put it over Wilcox’s shoulder to make it 1-0 Penguins. It had been nearly 98 minutes between goals for the Penguins.
Penguins killed the Crunch power play easy, then had to kill another. Porter couldn’t do it again, could he? He could! He created a turnover and again, beat Wilcox over the shoulder to make it 2-0 Wilkes-Barre.
Cory Conacher would score on a change up of a shot while the Crunch were on the same power play that made it 2-1. The penalty kill run ended at 13.
Syracuse would continue to take penalties and the Penguins had a few good chances to score heading into the…
Third Period: Felt like to this point that the Penguins were nursing a 2-1 lead, given what happened the night prior against Springfield and the fact that you don’t normally see two shorthanded goals by the same player in the same game, and with this being only a one goal game, it sure felt like Syracuse was going to score, it was only a matter of time.
They didn’t. They continued to struggle on the power play and Casey DeSmith continued to make nice saves, getting over to stop a Tanner Richard one timer while the Crunch were on a power play.
Reid Gardiner is indeed that diamond in the rough type player I mentioned when I had the crazy idea to do brief blurbs on the bodies that the Penguins invited to training camp as part of a blog post. He has played like someone that does not want to be taken out of the lineup. Promoted to the second line tonight, Gardiner had a hell of a shift where he separated a man from a puck and created a scoring chance. You cannot take him out of the lineup right now.
Dominik Simon put home his first of the year at 15:45, a bar down and in shot that iced it for the Penguins.
DeSmith, with Wilcox vacated and the Crunch playing with an extra man, stopped any chance by the Crunch to come back. In one sequence, he had a nice save with a blocker and in another he gloved a Mike Halmo deflection from a Cory Conacher blast from the blue line.
Three Stars: 3) Dominik Simon (goal, +1) 2) Casey DeSmith (26 saves on 27 shots) and 1) Kevin Porter (two goals, assist, +3)
Milestones: Kevin Porter is the first player since Jonathan Filewich with two shorthanded goals in one game (December 23, 2006 vs. Norfolk) … Tim Erixon played in his 200th AHL game.
Around the Division: Hershey beats Bridgeport 5-2 in the Bears home opener…Hartford beats Lehigh Valley 5-4 in overtime. Phantoms scored three goals in the third to force overtime…Springfield wins in its home opener in front of a sold out crowd 5-4 in overtime against the St. John’s IceCaps. Providence was off.
Standings: Springfield with 6 points, Penguins, Hartford and Bridgeport with 4, Lehigh Valley with 3 and Hershey and Providence with 2.
Wheeling Update: Cincinnati beat the Nailers in Ohio tonight 2-1. Garrett Meurs scored the only goal for the Nailers in the loss. I’ll have more on the Nailers week as part of the Wheeling Wrap on Tuesday.
Video Highlights: Are here…
Pens travel to Hershey Sunday for a 5 p.m. meeting against the Bears. Gameday for this affair hits the blog Sunday at 1.
Let’s Go Pens!