The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins went into a Tuesday morning game with their playoff hopes on the door of life support. The Sound Tigers needed two points to sew up a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
It was a game on paper that you would think the Penguins would struggle with, after watching them lay an egg against a Springfield Thunderbirds team in their only action of the weekend last Saturday. The Sound Tigers had success last weekend to inch closer to a playoff spot and were 24-6-2 at home coming into Tuesday’s contest.
Using a three goal first period and withstanding an 18-4 shot differential in the third period, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins win 3-1 in Bridgeport. The win draws the Penguins back to three points behind the idle Providence Bruins with equal games played, denies the Sound Tigers a playoff spot for the time being and hands the Atlantic Division Championship to the Charlotte Checkers.
Lineup Notes: Anthony Angello and Juuso Riikola were out of the lineup with injuries. Patrick McGrath went in on the fourth line. Tim Erixon jumped in on defense. Top two lines for Wilkes-Barre were untouched, Cam Brown jumped in Angello’s spot on the third line. Defense pairing were all shuffled.
First Period: With these morning starts, the first team to get out of the blocks the right way normally carries the momentum. Fortunately in the first, it was the Penguins.
Ryan Haggerty carried the puck out of the Bridgeport zone, through neutral, then split to Bridgeport defenders and was tripped. Penguins went to an early power play just :33 in.
Haggerty didn’t waste time in giving the Penguins an early 1-0 lead before the game was a minute old.
The hits continued. Chase Berger scored his first professional goal in just his second professional game through a screen on the left side that gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
But Wilkes-Barre was not done. Ryan Haggerty scored his second of the game when he collected a Sam Lafferty faceoff win, floated mid slot and fired to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead.
Shots were 14-8 Penguins after one. Smith was under bombardment all period and it could have easily been 4-0 or 5-0.
Second Period: Another thing that you have to worry about with the morning starts is that the team that starts in the hole gets their legs moving and the team on top relaxes a bit because it’s a morning game and then all of a sudden it becomes a contest again. That didn’t happen in the middle frame. The Penguins maintained their 3-0 lead.
Smith had some good stops, starting off with a Chris Brown breakaway chance set up by Ryan Haggerty. Then he stopped Joseph Cramarossa with a glove save in the splits.
Third Period: Sound Tigers started to move their feet in the period and got the Penguins in penalty trouble. Finally Jeff Kubiak deflected a Carter Hutton shot from the point that deflected past Jarry and in to bust up Jarry’s would be shutout bid.
Penguins put on a penalty killing clinic the rest of the way and held off Bridgeport’s oncoming charges. Ryan Haggerty had a couple cracks at his hat trick but was denied.
Three Stars: 3) Jeff Kubiak (goal) 2) Chase Berger (goal) 1) Ryan Haggerty (two goals)
The Good: Getting out to a hot start before the clock struck 11 a.m. in the morning. A mild second and then withstanding a furious bid by the Sound Tigers in the third period.
The Bad: Kind of hard to come up with something like this, considering the opponent just scored one goal, but putting away a team is something that lacks I think right now. If the Penguins do get into the playoffs, they will need that killer instinct.
Turning Point: The three goal explosion in the first period ended up turning out to be too big of a hole to climb out of.
No other scores in the division that you need to worry about.
But for anything breaking, check out the Power Rankings on Thursday.
Let’s Go Pens!