WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Coming into Wednesday’s Game 3 against the St. John’s IceCaps, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins iced a lineup riddled with injuries.
It was a factor that the IceCaps took advantage of, shutting out the Penguins 5-0 behind 30 saves from goaltender Michael Hutchinson and three second-period goals. With the loss, the Penguins trail the IceCaps 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 4 tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
It’s a game the Penguins are looking forward to as a way to forget about Wednesday’s loss.
“When you play a game like this, the sooner the next game is, the better,” captain Tom Kostopoulos said. “We want to learn from it and then forget about it.”
Despite the IceCaps’ strong play at both ends, the Penguins didn’t help themselves by going 0-for-6 on the power play and playing undisciplined at times, leading to a pair of St. John’s man-advantage tallies.
But a lineup that was without leading scorer Chuck Kobasew and veteran center Nick Drazenovic — along with Andrew Ebbett, who hasn’t played since the opening round due to an injury — didn’t help. In their place were Tom Kuhnhackl and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, both of whom played in their first postseason games, and winger Carter Rowney, who sat out the last eight games.
But the Penguins weren’t using that as an excuse.
“If we played our best game and lost 5-0, then you can contribute it to injuries,” Penguins coach John Hynes said. “We didn’t play our best game. We got outplayed and that had nothing to do with the guys in or out of the lineup.”
The Penguins started off strong, forcing the play down low and beating the IceCaps to the puck with a frenzied rush.
Once the IceCaps sustained the Penguins’ initial attack, they dominated the second half of the period. Patrice Cormier’s shot through traffic in front gave St. John’s a power play goal and a 1-0 lead.
Jason Jaffray made it 2-0 after a turnover behind the Penguins net and the hits kept coming.
The Penguins power play had several chances to steal the IceCaps’ momentum but couldn’t get anything going, even during a two-man advantage for 1:05 late in the period.
“We were trying to open things up and it got worse,” Kostopoulos said.
St. John’s, meanwhile, piled up the goals in the second period, scoring three times, including another power-play tally, to take a 5-0 lead and force goalie Peter Mannino from the game to start the third period.
Mannino was replaced by rookie netminder Matt Murray, who managed to stabilize things in the third period by stopping all eight shots he faced. But the Penguins still couldn’t manage to get anything by Hutchinson, as they were shut out for the second time this postseason.
“You’re going to win and lose games. This was one game,” Hynes said. “It was a little bit more mental in certain areas where we have to be better. Our game has to change, and if that does change then things will change on the scoreboard and win/loss-wise.”
• G Eric Hartzell, D Peter Merth, D Reid McNeill (injury), C Nick Drazenovic (injury), RW Chuck Kobasew (injury), C Mike Carman, D Nick D’Agostino, D Harrison Ruopp, LW Bobby Farnham, C Andrew Ebbett (injury), C Dominik Uher (injury), RW Bryan Rust, RW Josh Archibald, LW Scott Wilson and D Dustin Stevenson were scratched for the Penguins.
• The Penguins power play is now 0-for-14 in the series. “It’s simple. You got to get the puck to the net,” Hynes said. “We have to have more of a commitment to get the puck to the net.”
St. John’s 5 Penguins 0
Game 3, Eastern Conference Finals
(St. John’s leads series, 2-1)
Scoring – 1. STJ, Patrice Cormier 1 (Morrissey, Gordon) power play 11:24. 2. STJ, Jason Jaffray 3 (Gordon) 13:15. Penalties – STJ, Klingberg (closing hand on puck) 5:11; STJ, O’Neill (roughing) 9:32; WBS, Gibbons (interference) 9:32; WBS, Kostopoulos (roughing) 9:32; STJ, Gordon (hooking) 16:38; STJ, MacKinnon (interference) 17:33; STJ, Chiarot (tripping) 18:36; WBS, Kostopoulos (holding) 18:36.
Scoring – 3. STJ, Eric O’Dell 8 unassisted 1:35. 4. STJ, Kael Mouillierat 3 (Gordon, O’Dell) power play 6:24. 5. STJ, Zach Redmond 1 (O’Neill, Klingberg) 19:59. Penalties – STJ, Lowry (fighting) 3:55; WBS, Despres (fighting) 3:55; WBS, Kostopoulos (roughing) 4:48; WBS, Sill (interference) 4:48; STJ, Redmond (holding) 13:26; STJ, Riley (holding) 16:51.
Scoring – Penalties – STJ, Riley (roughing) 12:18; WBS, Leblond (interference, misconduct) 12:18; WBS, Sill (slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct) 12:18;
Shots on goal
St. John’s – 11-13-8-32; Penguins – 8-12-10-30
St. John’s – 2 of 5; Penguins – 0 of 5
St. John’s – Michael Hutchinson 9-4 (30 saves - 30 shots); Penguins – Peter Mannino 8-6 (19-24); Matt Murray – start of the third period (8-8)
St. John’s – G Michael Hutchinson, D Josh Morrissey, D Will O’Neill, LW Jason Jaffray, C John Albert, RW Andrew Gordon; Penguins – G Peter Mannino, D Brendan Mikkelson, D Brian Dumoulin, LW Spencer Machacek, C Brian Gibbons, RW Tom Kostopoulos
1. STJ, Michael Hutchinson (30 saves, shutout) 2. STJ, Andrew Gordon (three assists) 3. STJ, Eric O’Dell (goal, assist)
Referees – Mark Lemelin, Darcy Burchell. Linesmen – Trent Knorr, Francis Trempe
Attendance – 3,553