SYRACUSE, NY – After playing their sixth game in 10 days, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins could’ve used fatigue as an excuse for what happened on Sunday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Syracuse Crunch.
But they didn’t.
Instead, the Penguins owned up to the fact that the Crunch played better for the majority of the night. They outshot the Penguins 37-18, wont he special teams battle and spent more time in the offensive zone.
That’s why the Penguins lost 3-2 as the Crunch evened the series, 1-1. The loss snaps the Penguins’ five-game winning streak as the series shifts back to Wilkes-Barre for the next two contests.
“We just weren’t good enough in any phase,” said head coach John Hynes. “We were average enough to keep it close, but not good enough to win the game.”
Syracuse came out firing in the first period, outshooting the Penguins 15-1 and taking a 1-0 lead on a power play goal by Dan Sexton at 18:56.
After killing off 21 straight power plays, the Penguins’ penalty kill has now allowed two goals in the last four opportunities they have faced.
The Penguins only shot of the period came at 13:40 as Syracuse kept most of the period in the offensive zone.
Brad Thiessen did a remarkable job preventing a bigger Syracuse lead with several key stops, including a save on a Brendan Mikkelson breakaway midway through the period.
Still, it clearly wasn’t the start the Penguins envisioned.
“Our first period was discouraging not because of the shots against, but the way we played,” said captain Joey Mormina. “For whatever reason we had too many guys that didn’t come ready to play tonight. The definitely got to their game before we did.”
The Penguins did get on the board in the second period – on their second shot of the game, when Mormina sent a slapshot past Cedrick Desjardins on a power play at 8:13.
Other than that, it was Syracuse that kept the pressure by taking advantage of Penguins’ errors and forcing the play while shorthanded.
In the first half of the period, Reid McNeill stopped in the neutral zone to scrum with Richard Panik. While McNeill shoved Panik, the Crunch raced into the zone outnumbering the Penguins on a three-on-two and scored down low with a goal by Matt Taormina.
Hynes said the play wasn’t neccesarily a tactical error, but one the Penguins will address.
“That’s kind of an oddity. It’s something we’ll talk about as a group - how to handle those situations,” he said.
At the midway point, the Penguins went on a four-minute power play but allowed the Crunch to extend their lead when Dmitry Korobov sent a wrister over Thiessen for a shorthanded goal and a 3-1 lead.
“When you’re chasing a team like Syracuse the whole game, you put yourself in a bad position,” Mormina said.
It could’ve been a lot worse.
The Penguins received a scare seven minutes into the third period when top scorer Chad Kolarik collided with Syracuse’s Tyler Johnson knee-on-knee. Both players had to be helped off the ice, but Kolarik returned while Johnson did not.
Kolarik said the collission wasn’t intentional.
“I didn’t see anything. I just turned up ice and I don’t know if he saw me or not,” Kolarik said. “I don’t know what happened to him and I’m not going to talk about what happened to me. I hope he’s alright.”
Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said Johnson suffered a charlie horse on the hit.
“They (Kolarik and Johnson) ran into each other. That’s all I know,” Zettler said. “It (Johnson’s status) is obviously huge.”
The Penguins did close to within one when Riley Holzapfel scored with six minutes left, but Syracuse was able to shut the door after that.
-With the series tied 1-1 and headed back to Wilkes-Barre for Games 3 and 4, the Penguins have only sold 2,600 tickets for each game - something Mormina would like to see change. “We really hope when we come home it’s too a sold-out building. We expect our fans to show up and for it to be a loud building.” To order tickets for Game 3 on Wednesday and Game 4 on Friday, call 208-PENS.
- G Scott Darling, D Dylan Reese (injury), C Chris Barton, C Jayson Megna (injury), LW Bobby Farnham (injury), LW Anton Zlobin, LW Steve MacIntyre, D Harrison Ruopp and RW Matia Marcantuoni were scratched for the Penguins.
- Brian Dumoulin (2-6-8) and Joey Mormina (1-7-8) are tied for the AHL lead in playoff scoring among defensemen.
Penguins 2 Syracuse 3
Penguins 0 1 1 — 2
Syracuse 1 2 0 - 3
Scoring – SYR, Dan Sexton 3 (Connolly, Barberio) power play 18:56. Penalties – WBS, Minella (fighting) 4:04; WBS, Sill (interference) 4:04; SYR, Sustr (fighting) 4:04; WBS, Mormina (hooking) 10:04; SYR, Johnson (diving) 10:04; WBS, Peters (holding) 18:40.
Scoring – 2. SYR, Matt Taormina 2 (Angelidis, Sustr) 7:07. 3. WBS, Joey Mormina 1 (Dumoulin, Kolarik) power play 8:13. 4. SYR, Dmitry Korobov 1 (Gudas, Palat) shorthanded 11:40. Penalties – SYR, Palat (hooking) 8:08; WBS, Uher (roughing) 10:04; SYR, Connolly (roughing) 10:04; SYR, Namestnikov (roughing) 10:04; SYR, Johnson (attempted butt-ending – double minor) 18:28; WBS, Gibbons (holding the stick) 20:00.
Scoring – 5. WBS, Riley Holzapfel 4 (Grant) 14:02. Penalties - SYR, Gudas (roughing) 12:24; WBS, Mormina (slashing) 13:37.
Shots on goal
Penguins – 1-11-6-18
Syracuse – 15-14-8-37
Penguins – 1 of 5
Syracuse – 1 of 3
Penguins – Brad Thiessen 6-2 (35 saves – 38 shots)
Syracuse – Cedrick Desjardins 8-1 (16-18)
Penguins – G Brad Thiessen, D Joey Mormina, D Peter Merth, LW Riley Holzapfel, C Warren Peters, RW Adam Payerl
Syracuse – G Cedrick Desjardins, D Mark Barberio, D J.P. Cote, LW Ondrej Palat, C Tyler Johnson, RW Richard Panik
1. SYR, Ondej Palat (assist) 2. SYR, Dmitry Korobov (goal) 3. SYR, Dan Sexton (goal)
Referee – Trevor Hanson, Terry Koharski. Linesmen – John Grandt, Fraser McIntyre
Attendance – 5,198