Mike Vellucci hammered his team postgame Wednesday after they lost.
Needed more from his forwards, his defense and in goal. Hell, he traded one of his players to the opponent this afternoon. It was an unacceptable effort for a team who is slowly slipping away from a playoff berth here in January.
So when the WIlkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins were down 2-0 just 5:41 into the game, who does Vellucci turn to?
Wait, the same Emil Larmi who the Penguins last saw trying to fight the Texas Stars back in Wilkes-Barre? The same Emil Larmi who couldn’t stop a nose bleed the last time he played in the AHL?
Yep, Emil Larmi.
The Texas Stars would win the game Friday 4-3 in a shootout, but not before the Penguins picked themselves off of the mat twice, overcoming a two goal deficit and then scoring a goal in the third to force overtime.
Probably Larmi’s best game in North America, given the level. He’s had some success playing in Wheeling with the ECHL affiliate and had a shutout, but Larmi needed a game like this to regain his confidence which was shattered the last time he suited up for the Penguins. Under the circumstances, with the Penguins circling the drain, Larmi put a stop on that with excellent saves after excellent saves.
Dustin Tokarski got the initial start and he opposed Jake Oettinger.
Lineup Notes: Shuffled again up front, Jan Drozg was in for Christopher Brown. Debutante John Nyberg was paired with Nicolas Almari on the second defensive pairing. Michael Kim was also in for Matt Abt paired with David Warsofsky. Emil Larmi backed up on the assumption to give DeSmith a night off and the further speculation that he starts Saturday in San Antonio.
Initially the first graphic had Andreas Martinsen on the fourth line but five minutes before the game, the team tweeted the above graphic stating that Devane was in.
First Period: Didn’t go well for Dustin Tokarski. Just 5:41 into the game, the Penguins were down 2-0 on goals scored by Nicholas Caamano and Ben Gleason.
Mike Vellucci didn’t waste any time going to backup Emil Larmi. Vellucci criticized the goaltending he got Wednesday, and he certainly could not be happy here, Tokarski just stopping two of four shots faced.
Larmi entering made Vellucci look like a genius. The Penguins goaltender calmed things down and the Penguins got a goal back after hard work from Kevin Roy from behind the net that made its way to Chase Berger who then found Adam Johnson in front for a goal.
Texas outshot the Penguins 12-7, including one of these shots which will end upon Larmi’s highlight reel.
Probably his best in the AHL. If he doesn’t make that save (the Penguins hadn’t scored yet) the game could have spiraled out of hand. Instead, he kept it 2-0 and you could see the confidence in him and the team in front of him building.
Second Period: Penguins came out with their tails up and ready to get the game tied. Emil Larmi made another fantastic save,this time going post to post to deny Tanner Kero.
The Penguins wouldn’t score on the first power play awarded them in the period, but they scored almost immediately after the first penalty expired when Kevin Roy scored to tied the game at two. Check this setup out:
But the Penguins would lose the lead when Texas replicated the same thing that saw the Penguins score; that is miss on the first power play attempt but score on the second. Anthony Louis with this snipe here to give the Stars the lead again.
Nothing Larmi could do on that one, that is just a dart.
Pens chased a bit but Larmi kept it a one goal lead heading to the…
Third Period: The Stars gift wrapped the Penguins back to back five on three power plays and David Warsofsky cashed on this sequence here to put the Penguins back on level terms:
Tyler noted the following:
All hail Jim Rutherford.
The Penguins killed a late Stars penalty but played great period with some timely saves by Larmi that got the game to …
Overtime: Bonkers, with Larmi making ten bell saves on ten bell saves. He was dialed in and determined not to lose in overtime. Pens had a few chances with Adam Johnson.
Shootout: Jason Robertson scored in the top of the first, Jordy Bellerive in the bottom of the second, Jan Drozg had a shot in the bottom of the third to win it but Nicholas Caamano scored in the top of the fourth and Kevin Roy missed on his chance immediately thereafter.
Three Stars: Jake Oettinger (27 saves 2) Anthony Louis (goal and 1) Nicholas Caamano (goal and shootout game winner)
The Good: The responseafter Larmi replaced Tokarski was a sight to behold. I thought personally the game was over at that point but Emil Larmi made a believer out of me this evening.
The Bad: What kind of message didn’t they get when the coach hammered every facet of the effort that they displayed Wednesday? To come out like they did and go behind like that doesn’t spell a good feeling that they can turn it around and make a playoff push.
Turning Point: In a game full of them, David Warsofsky’s power play goal in the third period guaranteed at least a point for Wilkes-Barre.
Around the Division: Lehigh Valley ends Binghamton’s eight game win streak with a 4-1 win in Allentown. That’s the Phantoms fourth win in a row…Bridgeport beats Providence 2-1….Utica beats Hartford 6-3. Justin Bailey for the Comets bags a hat trick in back to back games, the first player to do so since Mark Mancari in 2011….Springfield beats Syracuse 4-1….Charlotte and Hershey were off.
Standings: Hartford 54 — Hershey 51 — Charlotte and Providence 47 — Springfield 46 — Penguins 43 — Lehigh Valley 39 — Bridgeport 35
Wheeling Update: The Nailers lose 5-4 in Kalamazoo. Cam Brown and Justin Almeida each had a goal and an assist in the loss.
Texas didn’t run any video highlights Wednesday so I doubt they will tonight. I’ll look anyway and if there are any, will run em in a later edit.
Pens travel to San Antonio for a date with the Rampage at 8 Saturday. Gameday setup is here Saturday afternoon at 4.
Let’s Go Pens!