First win of the 2022 calendar year for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins breaking a 8 game winless streak good for their tenth win of the season (dude, it’s January) with a 5-2 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Saturday night.
They win this game doing the same thing they did Friday against these same Phantoms, tons of shots for, few against. You’ll win a hell of a lot more than you will lose employing that strategy, but they lost Friday. They won tonight.
They showed fire in Utica last Friday and lost to the Eastern Conference’s best team. That’s what good teams do, they find ways to win.
They were competitive-ish against Hershey in parts, few and far between, but still haven’t beat the Bears this season.
But this one felt good. Three goals in 97 seconds in the second period blew it open and while they still have a ton of holes (special teams are an abject disaster) they still were able to call this an easy victory.
Crawl, before you walk. There is still a lot of time here to make a push back up the standings.
Tommy Nappier opposed Felix Sandstrom. Here is how they lined up:
Lineup Notes: Pascal Laberge (who used to play for the Phantoms) was signed to a PTO by the Penguins Friday and made his debut, replacing Nick Hutchinson. Chris Bigras replaced Cam Lee on defense.
First Period: Exact copy as Friday, Phantoms had three shots all period (two came in an early power play and the other at the end of the period) and the Penguins score first. This time it was Valtteri Puustinen kicking off the scoring.
Shots were 13-3 in favor of the Penguins. Listen, it’s been a hellacious month with the team losing games, losing games to COVID, losing their favorite blogger covering the team and still losing games. This was a good period. Crawl before you walk. Don’t plan a parade yet.
Second Period: Three goals within 97 seconds and the Penguins turned the game into a runaway.
Sam Poulin, Phantoms killed Felix Robert and Nathan Legare all with goals. These guys are the guys that you want to see get hot offensively and get on a roll.
Crawl before you walk.
Sick angle there by Sam Poulin.
Suomi says Upper Grandma. Listen to the WBS Pens podcast and you will know what I am talking about.
Transition, dishing and swishing.
Three penalties a side for both teams. No scoring.
Third Period: Lehigh made a push and scored on their two opportunities of the period to make it a 4-2 game and just maybe you thought that the Pens were about to throw the game away.
But no, time worked against the Phantoms and Taylor Fedun hit an empty net to make sure that the Phantoms would not come back.
Connor Bunnaman and Wade Allison scored for Lehigh Valley.
Three Stars: 3) Connor Bunnaman (goal) 2) Felix Robert (goal, assist) 1) Sam Poulin (goal)
A note on Robert, he had three points Friday (1-2) and two more Saturday. A nice game against Hershey and that’s AHL Player of the Week territory.
The Good: Nice to get the win after so long without one.
The Bad: Special teams is bad and we should all feel bad.
Turning Point: Those 97 seconds were hell for the Phantoms and it was fairly easy sailing for the Penguins after that.
Around the Division: It’s really a meaningless exercise when the team you cover is in last but we will skip around anyway. Bridgeport was off. Hershey loses to Toronto at home in overtime 3-2. Bears haven’t won all week, but they haven’t been playing the Penguins….Providence beats Springfield 5-3. Hartford shuts out Laval 4-0. Keith Kincaid continues career renaissance with a 31 save shutout. Charlotte throttles Texas 8-3 in the rare Eastern Conference / Western Conference matchup.
Bonus: Not the only East / West matchup tonight as Cleveland was in Rockford and won narrowly 5-4.
Standings: Again, meaningless when you are in last, but the Pens pick up a few percentage points and sit with .414. Idle Bridgeport has .458 in seventh.
Wheeling Update: Nailers win 4-1 down in Orlando. Jared Cockrell with a hat trick for Wheeling.
Pens wrap the weekend with a 3 p.m. start against Hershey.