God’s honest truth, I thought they were screwed.
And that’s not something that I often, if ever do when it comes to this team. I look at ways that they can play to a win and if they go down somehow come back and win in a way that stuns me.
But after witnessing, in person, the performances on Wednesday and Friday, I didn’t give the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins much of a shot tonight against the Syracuse Crunch.
Syracuse ranks Top 5 in the league in the following categories. In no particular order, they are, 1) goals for (1st), 2) goals against (2nd), power play overall (5th), penalty kill overall (3rd) and short handed goals (T-2nd).
A well oiled machine, for sure.
The first period went as you would expect.
Ross Colton scored his first goal of the contest at 3:27 when Andy Andreoff found him in the front of the net. Later, Cameron Gaunce scored on a power play and it was 2-0.
Not only that, but the Penguins got outshot 17-5 in the period.
The Syracuse Crunch were putting on a clinic in front of a big crowd in a game which was locally televised.
But then something happened in the second period.
Jimmy Hayes won a puck battle and found Linus Ölund at the front of the net and the Penguins all of a sudden, wouldn’t you know it, cut the lead to one.
Then, the Penguins found themselves on the wrong end of a two man advantage for 1:10. Go back up eight paragraphs. Their opponent tonight was number one in goals for and fifth overall on the power play.
The Penguins killed both penalties, rather academically.
Heading into the third, still trailing by one, the Penguins took two consecutive delay of game penalties. Hugely avoidable. What did they do? They got out of those too.
Ethan Prow let one rip on a power play and Joseph Blandisi tipped in the rebound to make it a tie game.
All the momentum was on the Penguins side. The script flipped, tables turned, whatever term you want to use.
Penguins nearly score to take the lead in a mad scramble, but Syracuse goes the other way and Ross Colton scores his second of the game and it’s 3-2 Crunch.
Bubble burst, right? We turn our clocks ahead an hour Saturday night so it’s midnight already for Cinderella, yeah?
The Penguins tie the game right back up on a Jimmy Hayes power play goal that forced overtime. There, Sam Miletic followed up on a rebound of a Joseph Blandisi shot and the Penguins defeat the Crunch, 4-3 in overtime.
Where to begin. Well, let’s start with what we said here last night in that the lack of success with this team is driven by the fact that they lack star power. Well tonight, the Penguins got star power in a big way from Jimmy Hayes. Hayes had a goal and an assist and it was one of his better games. I think Hayes plays better when the quality of competition is such that it raises his own game up some.
I am over 20 paragraphs in and haven’t mentioned Tristan Jarry yet. What an outstanding performance turned in from the Penguins net minder. If it’s John Muse (who backed up tonight) then we are all lauding the praises of the backup and demanding with torches and pitchforks on Monday morning that Muse is named starting goaltender for the remainder of the season and a statue be erected in his honor in the parking lot at the Arena.
Jarry was dialed in from the hop and was beat by a blown coverage on his first goal and a long shot through bodies on his second. He singlehandedly kept his team in the game and they did the rest to get him the win.
Oh, and coaching. There are a lot of people that want Head Coach Clark Donatelli drawn and quartered and sent out with yesterday’s newspaper. Those people are wrong, but that’s an argument to have and a case to make for another day. I don’t know what exactly was said in between periods but you need to have to at least give Donatelli some modicum of credit for saying the right things or adjusting to what the Crunch were throwing at the Penguins tonight.
No lineup changes for the Penguins tonight but for John Muse backing up. Tristan Jarry opposed Martin Ouellette.
No GIFs tonight again. When you rely on others and they don’t come through, you can’t complain.
Lehigh Valley was not in a action tonight. Sorry that I misled you in the Gameday setup, but they play Sunday against the Checkers.
Providence beat Hershey in overtime 4-3. Hartford did the same to Springfield, 3-2. Bridgeport also had the night off.
Penguins are a point off (65) the Phantoms (66) with Lehigh Valley four off of fourth place Hershey (70). All three teams have 60 games played.
Here are the video highlights for those of you who just like to click on the videos. You know who you are.
You want to hope that the performance tonight can carry over to Wednesday in Allentown and back here Saturday against Providence and beyond. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t but if anything it showed that the Penguins have it in them to stand up to the AHL’s great teams and knock them over every once in a while.
Hope. That’s all you can do.