With all this talk this week with Casey DeSmith leaving Game 1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins / New York Rangers series in Game 1, necessitating the services of Louis Domingue and the recall of the only other NHL contracted goalie left in the system Alex D’Orio, this leaves Wilkes-Barre with the AHL contracted Tommy Nappier essentially all alone by himself in the minor leagues.
Doubt crept in the minds of the Penguins faithful, both up top and at the farm. Rightfully so, but none of this got to or seemed to bother Tommy Nappier.
Nappier makes 23 saves and he and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins blank the Hershey Bears 3-0 Friday night. They lead the best of three series 1-0 with Game 2 and a chance to close out the series Sunday in Hershey.
The Penguins accomplished their game plan almost to a tee Friday. Hershey had just three shots after the first period and were down 2-0 after goals :31 apart by Will Reilly and Alex Nylander. They continued to bottle up an offensively struggling Hershey Bears team in the second period and the bears tried to pick up the physicality in the third but Nappier and the Penguins kept them quiet.
Here’s how they lined up:
Lineup Notes: Michael Chaput got hurt in the last game and is week to week. Taylor Fedun is skating at practice but is still week to week. Filip Lindberg is done for the year.
First Period: Pens withstand the games opening moments, an early Hershey power play and then Will Reilly scores to open his postseason account.
:31 later, Alex Nylander on a deflection of a P.O. Joseph shot.
And it was off to the races.
But the Penguins reigned in the emotions. There was 50 minutes left to play. No time to play fast and loose, not against Hershey.
They reigned it in. No more penalties in the period which was nice. They outshot Hershey 15-3.
Second Period: No scoring. Shots 9-9. Physicality picked up huge. POens had a power play but couldn’t get it to click. Jamie Devane and Kale Kessy fought to a draw.
Third Period: Hershey unloaded three offense but again, the Penguins and more importantly Nappier withstood the charge.
Pheonix Copley with larceny on Valtteri Puustinen, then again in a scrum. After getting beat twice in a :31 span in the first, he really settled in and locked on.
Jonathan Gruden would get tripped pursing a puck through the neutral zone with Hershey’s net empty, and Radim Zohrona would hit an empty net for a power play goal which made it 3-0 and finally iced it away.
Three Stars: 3) P.O. Joseph (two assists) 2) Will Reilly (goal) 1) Tommy Nappier (23 saves)
The Good: Nappier was dialed in and the Penguins defense made some of the saves easy for him. A chance to close out your biggest rival Sunday evening.
The Bad: Can’t think of anything. About as perfect as they drew it up.
Turning Point: Really hard to say that the second goal by Nylander all the way back at 9:05 of the first period is a turning point, but with Hershey’s arid offense of late, it really made it difficult for the Bears to get back into it.
Game 2 is Sunday at 5:05 from Hershey. More after that game.
Let’s Go Pens!