WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Wednesday’s matchup against the Norfolk Admirals was like any other Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins game of late. The Penguins defense sparkled, the offense didn’t put many pucks in the back of the net and the final score was 2-1. That was the formula for the last three games – all won by the Penguins. But on Wednesday there was a major difference – the Penguins came out on the losing end of a 2-1 game thanks to a pair of unanswered goals. The loss drops the Penguins to 29-23-2-1 and snaps a three-game winning streak. It’s also the fourth game in a row that finished with a 2-1 score. The Penguins are now 8-4 in 2-1 games this season, but head coach John Hynes said he spotted a problem with his team right from the opening period as the Admirals outshot the Penguins 15-7. “Too many passengers,” he said. “It was more skill before work. That’s not a recipe for our team to have success.”
The Penguins managed to enter the second with a scoreless tie – something that has been the norm of late. In the last seven homes games, the Penguins have managed just one goal in the first period. “We weren’t happy with our first period at all,” said winger Tom Kostopoulos. “We’re struggling to put pucks in the net. We need more confidence with the puck and around the net. Both teams exchanged power play goals in the second frame. The Penguins struck first seven minutes in when Kostopoulos backhanded home a rebound to make it 1-0. The goal was Kostopoulos’ second in two games and gave the Penguins momentum that last until they ran into penalty trouble later in the period. With less than three minutes to go in the second period, Joseph Morrow went to the box for high-sticking and the Admirals took advantage, connecting on the power play to even things up 1-1.
Hynes said that was a turning point in the game. “We had a one-goal lead. We were playing better hockey, were in control and took two bad penalties and one winds up in the back of the net,” he said.
Norfolk took the lead after Jeff Zatkoff was unable to corral the puck behind the net and Norfolk’s Josh Brittain tipped in a shot before he was able to get back in position. It was a bad bounce, but one that Zatkoff said a low-scoring team is susceptible to.
“When games are that close every play is crucial,” he said. “When you’re low-scoring you don’t have a lot of breathing room. “It’s one of those things that’s rare when it happens, but unfortunately for us it happened when it was 1-1 with six minutes left.”
The Penguins had a late power play with four minutes left in the third but were unable to get anything past Norfolk goaltender Frederik Andersen, who stopped 26 of 27 shots on the night. Hynes chalked up the loss to a poor start, bad penalties in the second period and a miscue in the third, in addition to one other element. “Norfolk deserved the victory. They came to work,” he said. “They played hockey the way you need to play hockey this time of year.”
- D Reid McNeill, RW Paul Thompson (injury), C Phil Dupuis (injury), D Alex Grant (injury), LW Chris Collins (injury) and LW Steve MacIntyre (injury) were scratched for the Penguins. - Kostopoulos’ goal was his 99th as a Penguin.
Norfolk 2 Penguins 1
Norfolk 0 1 1 — 2
Penguins 0 1 0 — 1
First Period: Scoring – None. Penalties – WBS, Holzapfel (hooking) 2:45; NOR, Letourneau-Leblond (roughing) 5:29; NOR, Hendry (delay of game) 7:00; WBS, Farnham (delay of game) 13:01; WBS, Dumoulin (tripping) 19:37; NOR, Vatanen (roughing) 20:00; WBS, Peters (roughing) 20:00.
Second Period: Scoring – 1. WBS, Tom Kostopoulos 2 (Kolarik, Holzapfel) power play 7:33. 2. NOR, Brandon MacMillan 5 (Vatanen, Smith-Pelly) power play 19:09. Penalties – NOR, Clark (cross-checking) 6:45; WBS, Minella (slashing) 8:44; WBS, Morrow (high-sticking) 17:38; NOR, Pelley (cross-checking) 19:09.
Third Period: Scoring – 3. NOR, Josh Brittain 7 (Sexton, Parent) 13:40. Penalties – NOR, Smith-Pelly (cross-checking) 1:49; WBS, bench – served by Holzapfel (unsportsmanlike conduct) 2:11; WBS, Uher (holding) 2:11; NOR, Holland (slashing) 15:39.
Shots on goal: Norfolk – 15-10-8-33; Penguins – 7-11-9-27
Power-play Opportunities: Norfolk – 1 of 6; Penguins – 1 of 7
Goaltenders: Norfolk – Frederik Andersen 12-10-1 (26 saves-27 shots); Penguins – Jeff Zatkoff 17-16-0 (31-33)
Starters: Norfolk – G Frederik Andersen, D Jordan Hendry, D Sami Vatanen, LW Josh Brittain, C Brandon MacMillan, RW Dan Sexton; Penguins – G Jeff Zatkoff, D Joey Mormina, D Cody Wild, LW Bobby Farnham, C Zach Sill, RW Chris Minella
1. NOR, Frederik Andersen (26 saves, one goal allowed) 2. NOR, Josh Brittain (game-winning goal) 3. WBS, Tom Kostopoulos (goal) Referee – Terry Koharski, Nic Leduc. Linesmen – Leo Boylan, Bob Fyrer
Attendance – 4,087