Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

It’s the Postseason, Tom — Pens WIN 7-4

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The Penguins are headed to the playoffs for a sixteenth consecutive season. 

Tonight was Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos’ final regular season home game.

There are two nice older people that sit ahead of me at the games that call me Tom for some reason. I was raised to respect my elders, so Tom it is.

It’s the postseason, and the players are going to rally around their grizzled captain and do it for Tom. The real one, not the the one mistaken for one.

It’s been a solid season for the Penguins overall. They probably won’t win the Atlantic Division, have not played at the level to win the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (that went to the Toronto Marlies) so Wilkes-Barre will fly under the radar as a strong, maybe even a dark horse team. 

A 7-4 win against a scrappy Binghamton Devils team tonight. After a 4-0 bombardment in the first period on goaltender Cam Johnson making his first professional start after a college season at the University of North Dakota in the first period, the Penguins may have let off heading into the second. 

That’s where Binghamton scored twice to totally change the dynamic of the game. But just :35 in to the third period, J-S Dea found Daniel Sprong for his thirtieth goal of the season that made it 5-2 Penguins. 

Michael Leighton started the game, and got the Penguins through the game. He was far from perfect, but guided the Penguins to a scrappy win in a game which featured a ton of offense. I still believe that Tristan Jarry is the Game 1 starter in the opening round against Providence whoever the Penguins first round opponent will be, but Head Coach Clark Donatelli has options if he needs them to switch to Leighton if he needs to.

No lineup changes for the Penguins tonight.

First Period: Penguins scored on a power play goal that should not have counted on account of offsides. J-S Dea scored and the Pens were off to the races.

The play was offsides though, and left to stand as a good goal. You can’t review offsides in the AHL.

Terrible call by the officials. Binghamton was robbed and you could say it completely changed the dynamic of the game. I’m not happy about it because of how terrible the call was. The Devils were robbed.

Tom Sestito scored seconds later and the rout was on.

Jarrett Burton got into the act with a highlight reel goal. Burton flipped the puck over a stick laying on the ice, hit two posts and then followed his own shot and scored to make it 3-0 Penguins.

Pens made it 4-0 as a power play expired when Zach Trotman scored to make it 4-0. I thought Burton got a stick on it, but it was Trotman’s goal.

Rout was on.

Until it wasn’t.

Second Period: Binghamton got two back in this period, and met the Penguins chance for chance in the period.

Jake Wallman scored unassisted when Leighton was screened to break up the shutout and make it 4-1.

Binghamton started to drive and get chance after chance. Leighton remained strong in net, but Wallman set up Blake Pietila to with a lot shot that Pietila deflected in to make it a two goal lead for the Penguins.

Wilkes-Barre fell asleep, or were too amped due to it being the final regular season home game, their captains final regular season game, and forgot that the game of hockey is played in three, twenty minute increments.

So comeback city for the Devils right?

To quote Lee Corseo, “not so fast, my friend.”

Three Stars: Dea and Sprong worked a two on one deep in the Binghamton zone and Sprong scored his 30th of the season to make it 5-2 Penguins.

Christian Thomas wired a wrist shot from high in the slot on a rush and it was 6-2 Penguins.

But Binghamton is scrappy. The North is so top heavy with their top four teams but watch out for this Devils team next year, they can scrap. They will probably finish fifth in the North this season.

The Devils get a power play goal from Jake MacDonald, a player that has killed the Pens all season, with Leighton again screened that made it 6-3.

A Jan Mandat snap shot handcuffed Leighton and it was all of a sudden 6-4.

Devils pulled Johnson and Christian Thomas scored to make it 7-4 to ice it away.

Three Stars: 3) Tom Sestito (goal, assist, +4) 2) Christian Thomas (two goals, assist, +4) 1) Tom Kostopoulos (you don’t need a reason)

Players switched to 29 practice jerseys during warmups:

And all the Devils players came over to give Kostopoulos a handshake after the game.

Around the Division: Providence beat Bridgeport 4-2. That eliminated the Sound Tigers. Providence clinched a spot also. The Charlotte Checkers, who you don’t want round one, crushed the Hershey Bears 7-3. Charlotte is in as well. Hartford beats Lehigh Valley in overtime 3-2. Springfield was off.

Standings: Lehigh Valley (98 points, 3 games left) — Penguins (92 points, 4 games left) — Providence (91 points, 4 games left) – Charlotte (90 points, 3 games left) — Bridgeport, Hartford, Springfield and Hershey. The AHL ranks by percentage.

With playoffs set, things are still very much in flux for the Atlantic Division.

Pens (at Bridgeport), Charlotte (vs. Hershey), Lehigh Valley at Providence are the games in the Atlantic to pay attention to tomorrow.

Wheeling Update: Nailers win their final game of the season with a 7-3 thrashing of the Fort Wayne Komets. Reid Gardiner had a goal and an assist.

Video Highlights: 

Pens are in Bridgeport Sunday at 3. Depending on prerogative, Donatelli may rest some guys, or he may push for home ice. I honestly don’t know. Gameday setup hist the blog here Sunday at 11 a.m.

Let’s Go Pens!

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