WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Last season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were held to two goals or less in nine of their 12 meetings against the Hershey Bears — and they only won three of those.
During Saturday’s home opener, the Penguins managed three tallies against the Bears, and more importantly, a better outcome.
A dramatic goal set up by Brian Gibbons late in the third period led the Penguins to a 3-1 win over the Bears, jumping them to a 1-0 start against their division rival and a 2-0 record on the season.
“We were ready to play,” said head coach John Hynes. “We worked on some things in between games and tonight you could see those things come to fruition in the game. There was definitely progress from last game to this game.”
And that progress was mainly the result of the Penguins speed up front.
Chris Conner was the beneficiary of Gibbons’ steal, which came with less than three minutes remaining, marking the second time the speedy duo teamed up for a big goal this season. In the season opener against Bridgeport, Gibbons set up Conner’s game-winning goal.
On Saturday, with the game tied 1-1 and the puck in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton end, Gibbons snuck into the high slot and picked off a cross-ice pass from Bears defenseman Tomas Kundratek.
He burned Kundratek in a foot race to the Hershey zone, faked a shot on Bears goaltender David Leggio before neatly dropping a pass back to Conner, who was trailing on the play. Conner buried a wrist shot for what would turn out to be the game-winning goal. It was Conner’s third goal of the season and Gibbons’ second point of the game.
“Those two guys have worked well together not only because they’re both real fast players, but they have similar sense and instincts,” Hynes said. “They seem to have a connection.”
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins outshot the Bears 14-6 in the second and although Hershey scored first, the lead didn’t last long.
Hershey’s goal – the first of the game — came early in the second period after a Penguins’ outlet pass hit the linesman in the neutral zone. Kundratek collected the puck, raced into the Penguins zone and placed a wrister inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.
The Penguins faced another hurdle minutes later after Tom Kostopoulos went to the box for interference.
Instead of sitting back and letting the Bears have the advantage, the Penguins’ penalty killers evened the score.
Using their speed, Gibbons and Jayson Megna skated into the Hershey end on a two-on-one rush. Gibbons dropped the puck back to Megna, who promptly dished it back down low. That’s when Gibbons placed a shot under sprawling Bears netminder David Leggio for the shorthanded tally and a 1-1 tie.
The Penguins almost gained their first lead of the game during a four-on-four situation in the third period. Conner picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone into the Hershey zone. Leggio came out of the crease to smother Conner’s shot and preserve the 1-1 tie.
Leggio came up big throughout the period, keeping the Penguins off the board during two power play opportunities. At the other end of the ice, Deslauriers was just as solid, stopping three Hershey shots during a power play with five minutes remaining.
After the goal by Conner, Leggio unraveled a bit and allowed another tally to Zach Sill with 1:13 remaining to close out the game.
• D Peter Merth, D Reid McNeill, C Mike Carman, RW Paul Thompson, LW Anton Zlobin, D Dustin Stevenson, D Harrison Ruopp and LW Bobby Farnham were scratched for the Penguins.
- The Penguins head to Syracuse today to take on Joey Mormina and the Crunch.
Penguins 3, Hershey 1
Scoring – None. Penalties – HER, Schilling (tripping) 1:12; WBS, Conner (tripping) 4:49; HER, Whitmore (roughing) 5:34; WBS, Harrington (roughing) 5:34; WBS, Uher (elbowing) 11:10.
Scoring – 1. HER, Tomas Kundratek 1 unassisted 4:05. 2. WBS, Brian Gibbons 1 (Megna) shorthanded 7:31. Penalties – HER, Latta (roughing) :21; WBS, Kostopoulos (interference) 6:27; HER, Byers (high-sticking) 12:46; HER, Taffe (interference) 16:08; WBS, Drazenovic (roughing) 16:58; HER, Kundratek (tripping) 19:20.
Scoring – 3. WBS, Chris Conner 3 (Gibbons) 17:22. 4. WBS, Zach Sill 1 (Uher, Kostopoulos) 18:47. Penalties – HER, Byers (slashing) 4:00; HER, Johnson (roughing) 6:33; WBS, Samuelsson (roughing) 6:33; HER, Kundratek (high-sticking) 9:40; WBS, Sill (elbowing) 13:50.
Shots on goal
Hershey — 5-6-8-19
Penguins — 5-14-9-28
Hershey – 0 of 5
Penguins – 0 of 7
Hershey – David Leggio 0-1-0 (25 saves – 28 shots)
Penguins – Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers 2-0-0 (18-19)
Hershey – G David Leggio, D Chay Genoway, D Tomas Kundratek, LW Michael Latta, C Tyler Ruegsegger, RW Garrett Mitchell
Penguins – G Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, D Philip Samuelsson, D Simon Despres, LW Dominik Uher, C Nick Drazenovic, RW Tom Kostopoulos
1. WBS, Chris Conner (game-winning goal) 2. WBS, Brian Gibbons (goal, assist) 3. WBS, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (18 saves, 1 GAA)
Referee – Nic Leduc. Linesmen – Leo Boylan, Jud Ritter
Attendance – 7,156