Things are getting tight around the cut line in the Atlantic and me, being ever the optimist, will feel good with taking three out of four points out of the weekend.
But the Hartford Wolf Pack are a last place team that had a lot of their regulars stripped away and sent to other teams at the trade deadline.
Hockey doesn’t work like that. The Wolf Pack are well coached by Keith McCambridge and had their butts handed to them Friday in Springfield against a slumping Thunderbirds team. Hartford was prepared against a team they play well against.
Penguins lose in overtime 4-3. Jimmy Hayes’ late power play goal, which was his 100th professional goal salvages a point and caps off a two goal third period comeback for the Penguins who were down 3-1 at the start of the third period.
Tristan Jarry opposed Brandon Halverson.
Lineup Notes: There were none. They went with the same lineup they used Friday in Providence, only swapping John Muse who backed up with Anthony Peters.
First Period: Penguins would get out to an early lead, but something about the way that the Wolf Pack match up with Wilkes-Barre, it didn’t last long. Hartford would storm back and tie it, then take the lead.
Here are the goals, starting with Joseph Blandisi opening the scoring for the Pens.
Goal came less than :90 into the contest.
Ryan Gropp finished off a tic tac toe passing play in front of Jarry and the Wolf Pack drew even.
Unmarked in the slot. That’s a no no.
Hartford put a long shot on that Jarry made the save on, but Ty Ronning drove down the far side and scored on the rebound to give the Wolf Pack a 2-1 lead.
Penguins had two power plays that they never came close on in the period.
Second Period: Hartford added a third goal when John Gilmour scored.
I had a tweet that really summarized things so far that I thought played well with the fact that the Penguins were 0/3 on the power play so far.
Yet another microcosm of the season.
Shots were 27-23 Wolf Pack through 40. Halverson was stout.
Third Period: Penguins knew they had to press in the third, and press they did. Sharp at the off, Ben Sexton deflects this Chris Wideman shot and Wilkes-Barre is within one just a minute into the frame.
Wilkes-Barre would only allow Hartford just 4 shots on goal all period and played smart hockey throughout.
Jimmy Hayes scored his 100th professional goal at a time that the team needed most, on a power play late in the third period down one.
This would force overtime.
Wilkes-Barre would get another power play right after the Hayes goal, but couldn’t get that lucky to take all two points in regulation.
Overtime: Didn’t last long. Pens found themselves on a 2-on-1 against and Ryan Gropp scored just :22 in.
The Good: Third period comeback to salvage at least a point. The Hayes power play goal on the power play may have saved or at least extended, the Penguins playoff hopes.
The Bad: Hartford has the Penguins number it seems. Season series right now is 3-3. You could say that the Penguins have no business being in these close games with a team like Hartford and you’d get no argument from me.
Turning Point: Hayes’ power play goal salvaged a much needed point for Wilkes-Barre that could go a long way.
Around the Division: Scoreboard lined up nice for the Penguins tonight. Bridgeport beats Hershey 4-1, Springfield beats Providence 4-2. There was Charlotte crushing Binghamton 8-1 but the Checkers are going to win the division in a runaway. Lehigh Valley beat Utica 4-2.
Standings: Charlotte 83 — Bridgeport 75 — Hershey 68 — Providence 65 — Lehigh Valley 62 — Penguins 62 — Springfield 59 — Hartford 57
Wheeling Update: Nailers lose 3-2 in overtime to Cincinnati.
Setting up Sunday: Bridgeport travels to Allentown to take on the Phantoms, Springfield and Providence rematch in Rhode Island. Hershey, the Pens and the rest of the Atlantic are off.
If I see Hartford post video highlights, I will run them here.
Pens bus home Saturday night, will get ready for a big Wednesday home game against the Phantoms. Bits and pieces for the blog if they warrant, if not, talk to you Wednesday.
Let’s Go Pens!