WILKES-BARRE TWP. – During Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Syracuse Crunch were a combined 0-for-9 on the power play.
Not surprisingly, both teams combined for only two goals – both by the Crunch, as they beat the Penguins 2-0 to take a 2-1 series lead.
For the Penguins, who were 0-for-5 on the power play, the lack of production with the man-advantage was the difference.
Coming in, the Penguins had converted at least once on the power play in the last six games and failed to score with the man advantage in only one out of the last 12 postseason contests.
“The power play didn’t go in,” said head coach John Hynes. “We can say the power play cost us not scoring a goal, but we did hit the pipe on the power play and had a point blank chance by (Brian) Gibbons. We had some Grade A chances on the power play, they didn’t go in.”
Riley Holzapfel hit the crossbar on one of the Penguins’ power play opportunities, and they had several chances in the first period alone, including 59 seconds of a two-man advantage in the final two minutes but were unable to get anything past Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins.
“That can be a turning point in the game,” Holzapfel said. “It’s a key point in the game anytime you can get a five-on-three in the playoffs. The momentum kind of swung their way.”
After a scoreless first period, the Crunch got on the board midway through the second when Vladislav Namestnikov capitalized on an Alex Grant turnover and scored on a slapshot from the high slot to make it 1-0.
The Penguins’ penalty kill did generate momentum late in the period. With Holzapfel off for a high-sticking double minor, the Penguins prevented the Crunch from extending their lead, led by several saves from Brad Thiessen to keep it 1-0 heading into the third.
“It was a big kill for us,” Hynes said. “We didn’t have a huge response after that. It wasn’t like we took the game over.”
Syracuse’s defense clamped down in the third and prevented the Penguins from pulling Thiessen for the extra attacker for most of the final minute. The best chance the Penguins had came with four minutes remaining when Olli Maatta – playing in his first AHL game, whizzed a wrist shot from the high slot that Desjardins just snared with his glove.
The Crunch put the game out of reach when J.T. Brown scored into an empty net with five seconds left for the 2-0 win.
Still, it was the lack of power play success coupled with a stout Syracuse defense that was responsible for the Penguins first shutout loss this postseason.
“We got a little desperate,” said center Trevor Smith, who admitted Syracuse’s defense was a lot tighter. “Decent coverage, broken plays, blocking shots. We have to pass it around and find ways to get pucks to the net.”
- D Olli Maata, one of Pittsburgh’s two first round picks in 2012, played in his first game for the Penguins on Wednesday.
- G Scott Darling, D Dylan Reese (injury), D Cody Wild, D Reid McNeill, C Chris Barton, C Jayson Megna (injury), LW Bobby Farnham, LW Anton Zlobin, LW Steve MacIntyre, D Harrison Ruopp, D Scott Harrington, and RW Matia Marcantuoni were scratched for the Penguins.
- The last time the Penguins were shutout in the playoffs was May 4, 2011, 1-0 to Charlotte.
- Game 4 is this Friday, 7:05 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena. For tickets call 208-PENS.
Syracuse 2 Penguins 0
Syracuse 0 1 1 — 2
Penguins 0 0 0 — 0
Scoring – None. Penalties – SYR, Paradis (roughing) 7:12; WBS, Gibbons (roughing) 7:12; WBS, Thompson (roughing) 7:12; SYR, Gudas (tripping) 9:33; SYR, Gudas (roughing) 13:57; WBS, Thompson (roughing) 13:57; WBS, Grant (boarding) 15:08; SYR, Paradis (cross-checking) 18:29; SYR, Gudas (roughing) 18:58; WBS, Gibbons (diving) 18:58; SYR, Cote (cross-checking) 19:29.
Scoring – 1. SYR, Vladislav Namestnikov 1 (Palat) 7:29. Penalties – SYR, Cote (elbowing) 8:39; SYR, Barberio (high-sticking) 12:45; WBS, Holzapfel (high-sticking, double minor) 14:19.
Scoring – 2. SYR, J.T. Brown 3 (Angelidis) empty net 19:55. Penalties – None.
Shots on goal
Syracuse – 6-9-7-22
Penguins – 10-7-5-22
Syracuse – 0 of 4
Penguins – 0 of 5
Syracuse – Cedrick Desjardins 9-1 (22 saves – 22 shots)
Penguins – Brad Thiessen 6-3 (20-21)
Syracuse – G Cedrick Desjardins, D Jean-Philippe Cote, D Mark Barberio, LW J.T. Wyman, C Mike Angelidis, RW J.T. Brown
Penguins – G Brad Thiessen, D Philip Samuelsson, D Brian Dumoulin, LW Riley Holzapfel, C Warren Peters, RW Adam Payerl
1. SYR, Cedrick Desjardins (22 saves, shutout) 2. SYR, Vladislav Namestnikov (game-wining goal) 3. WBS, Brad Thiessen (21 saves)
Referee – Jean Hebert, Dave Lewis. Linesmen – Kiel Murchison, Jud Ritter
Attendance – 4,012