When goaltender Peter Mannino was suspended in late November after refusing to report to the Wheeling Nailers, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins had no choise but to move on.
On Saturday against the Albany Devils in Atlantic City, they were happy to have Mannino back.
After giving up 34 goals over the last eight games — and losing seven — Mannino stopped 19-of-20 shots in his first start since Nov. 8 to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 win over the Devils.
Trailing 1-0 going into the third period, the Penguins received goals from Brendan Mikkelson and Tom Kostopoulos to complete the comeback. The win was crucial as it allows the Penguins to pass Albany for the sixth spot overall in the Eastern Conference.
On Saturday, a day after being shutout by the Syracuse Crunch, the Penguins offense struggled again, totaling just nine shots through the first two periods without a goal. Albany got on the board midway through the first period after Andrew Ebbett was called for tripping, followed by Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for unsportsmanlike conduct. That allowed the Devils to go on their third power play, this time a 5-on-3, and Mike Sislo connected to give them a 1-0 lead.
Penalty trouble would continue to haunt the Penguins throughout the game, including the first half of the third period when Ebbett was given a double minor for high-sticking and Mike Carman was called for a delay of game after shooting the puck over the glass with three seconds left on the four-minute power play.
That gave the Devils almost six minutes of power-play time, but the Penguins held fast to kill it all off and prevent Albany from extending the lead.
After that the offense surfaced for the Penguins.
Mikkelson gained the puck at the blue line, waited for a spot and fired a shot through traffic and past Albany goaltender Keith Kinkaid to tie it up, 1-1.
Then it was the Penguins turn to connect on the power play. With less than four minutes remaining in the game, Kostopoulos scored his 20th goal of the season to put the Penguins up 2-1.
After Albany pulled Kinkaid for the extra attacker, Mannino and the Penguins staved off a last-minute attack to preserve the win.
After posting a 3-5-2-1 record in February, the Penguins open March with a win and a valuable two points to move one ahead of Albany in the conference. The win is Mannino’s second with the Penguins. He posted a 3-3 record with the Nailers after he reported to Wheeling in January.
• D Brian Dumoulin (injury), C Zach Sill (injury), F Tom Kuhnhackl, F Anton Zlobin and D Barry Goers were scratched for the Penguins.
• Kostopoulos’ goal marked his fifth AHL season with at least 20 tallies. He has four 20-goal seasons with the Penguins. Kostopoulos is also tied for third in the AHL with 12 power play goals and five game-winners.
• The Penguins had 14 shots on the night, their lowest total of the season.
Penguins 2, Albany 1
Scoring -1, Albany, Sislo 18 (Larsson, Zajac), 11:21 (PP). Penalties-Drazenovic Wbs (slashing), 3:47; Ebbett Wbs (tripping), 9:41; Letourneau-Leblond Wbs (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:41; Helgeson Alb (interference), 16:27.
Scoring - No Scoring.Penalties-Zolnierczyk Wbs (holding), 8:24; Sislo Alb (interference), 16:41.
Scoring -2, W-B/Scranton, Mikkelson 6 (Zolnierczyk, Farnham), 13:33. 3, W-B/Scranton, Kostopoulos 20 (Machacek), 16:08 (PP). Penalties-Ebbett Wbs (double minor - high-sticking), 0:56; Carman Wbs (delay of game), 4:54; McPherson Alb (tripping), 15:32.
Shots on Goal
Power Play Opportunities
Penguins 1 / 3
Albany 1 / 7
Penguins, Mannino 2-1-0 (20 shots-19 saves)
Albany, Kinkaid 20-9-2 (14 shots-12 saves)
Referees-Ryan Fraser (14), David Banfield (77).
Linesmen-Jud Ritter (34), Luke Murray (92).