HERSHEY – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins won’t admit it, but there may have been another factor behind Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Hershey Bears.
The Penguins were coming off a grueling two-game stint against the Admirals in Norfolk and traveled six hours to arrive in Hershey at 5 a.m. on Sunday to wrap up their second consecutive three-in-three weekend.
The Bears, meanwhile, were wrapping up their fourth straight weekend of three games in three days, but unlike the Penguins they avoided travel with a home game on Saturday.
The end result was a contest where the Penguins really didn’t get outplayed, they just didn’t have quite enough.
“It’s tough,” center Nick Drazenovic said. “Anytime you’re up at five o’clock in the morning you’re tired. It’s not an excuse though. I don’t like excuses. I feel it just comes down to your will.”
The Penguins may have had will, but they didn’t have any luck, especially on the power play.
In the opening minutes the Penguins found themselves with a two-man advantage for 1:09 and a great chance to get that crucial first goal.
The Bears kept them off the board, however, and went on to kill all seven Penguin power plays on the night.
Drazenovic said that first kill had a lot to do with the loss.
“I think the stats are quite ridiculous if you kill a five-on-three or score on a five-on-three,” he said. “They killed it and won. When you get that two-man advantage you really need to at least gain a lot of momentum. They gained a lot of momentum by killing it.”
The Bears got to their game quickly, connecting midway through the first period when Ryan Stoa hit Dustin Gazley with a backhand pass across the crease for the easy power play goal.
Hershey’s Jeff Taffe slammed home a rebound kicked out by Eric Hartzell to make it 2-0 in the second period, and Bears netminder Philipp Grubauer stopped all 27 shots he faced as the Penguins were shut out for just the second time this season.
They also wrap up a weekend with just two regulation goals in three games, and the power play was a major reason why. Not only did they fail to connect on seven opportunities Sunday, but the Penguins’ power play is mired in a 0-for-21 slump dating back to Jan. 18 against Portland – a span of five games. Over the weekend, the power play was 0-for-15.
Hynes said the power play wasn’t a complete failure despite not scoring Sunday.
“It was good because we had scoring chances,” he said. “If you get a five-on-three and you don’t get chances at the net, you classify that as not a good power play. We had opportunities, and the power play’s job is to create scoring chances.”
Down 2-0 in the third period, the Penguins continued to generate chances. Zack Torquato hit a post early on and Drazenovic followed suit later in the period.
“We didn’t back down,” Drazenovic said. “I know we were on the bus at five in the morning. It is what it is. You play hard and that’s what we did.”
The loss drops the Penguins to 25-14-1-3 and 5-3 against Hershey this season. The Bears are now four points behind the second place Penguins in the East Division, while first place Binghamton extended their lead to three points with a win on Sunday.
* C Zach Sill, RW Carter Rowney, D Nick D’Agostino, D Harrison Ruopp and C Adam Payerl (injury) were scratched for the Penguins.
* Sill was injured on Saturday in Norfolk after taking a skate blade to his arm in the third period and is out long-term. Hynes said he traveled back with the team on Saturday night and was taken to Pittsburgh to be evaluated.
* The Penguins take on Syracuse at home this Wednesday.
Hershey 2, Penguins 0
Scoring – 1. HER, Dustin Gazley 5 (Stoa, Taffe) power play 11:39. Penalties – HER, Watkins (hooking) 2:07; HER, Strachan (boarding) 2:59; WBS, Zlobin (tripping) 6:15; WBS, Zlobin (boarding) 10:06; HER, Byers (hooking) 16:49; WBS, Torquato (goaltender interference) 17:20.
Scoring – 2. HER, Jeff Taffe 10 (Gazley, Latta) 4:42. Penalties – Her, Byers (high-sticking) 5:53; WBS, Leblond (roughing, fighting) 8:32; HER, Byers (checking to the head, fighting) 8:32; HER, Stoa (delay of game) 19:46.
Scoring – None. Penalties – HER, Byers (hooking) 8:53; WBS, Kostopoulos (hooking) 9:07; HER, Deschamps (High-sticking) 16:54.
Shots on goal
Penguins – 10-8—9-27
Hershey – 7-7-3-17
Penguins – 0 of 7
Hershey – 1 of 4
Penguins – Eric Hartzell 8-3-1 (15 saves – 17 shots)
Hershey – Philipp Grubauer 6-4-1 (27-27)
Penguins – D Philip Samuelsson, D Simon Despres, LW Harry Zolnierczyk, C Zack Torquato, RW Dominik Uher
Hershey – D Steve Oleksy, D Julien Brouillette, LW Michael Latta, C Jeff Taffe, RW Dustin Gazley
1. HER, Philippe Grubauer (shutout, 27 saves) 2. HER, Dustin Gazley (game-winning goal) 3. HER, Jeff Taffe (goal)
Referees – Tim Mayer, Ryan Hersey. Linesmen – Tom George, Jud Ritter
Attendance – 9,485