WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Friday’s game against the Hamilton Bulldogs had a little bit of everything for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
There was Andrew Ebbett’s shorthanded penalty shot goal in the first period, Anton Zlobin’s two-goal game and Chuck Kobasew’s first tally in his first game with the club.
Behind it all was Peter Mannino, who made several highlight reel saves to guide the Penguins to a convincing 5-1 win.
The victory is the third in a row for the Penguins, who improve to 33-20-3-5 and, coupled with a Norfolk loss on Friday, it moves them into sole possession of first place in the East Division and third overall in the conference.
Coming in, three of the Penguins’ last four games were decided by one goal, but against Hamilton they scored in bunches to maintain a large lead throughout the game.
Ebbett kicked it off in the first period when he launched down the ice on a shorthanded breakaway, only to be tripped up by Hamilton’s Gabriel Dumont for a penalty shot. Ebbett made good on the chance, flipping a backhander past the glove of Bulldogs goaltender Devan Dubnyk for a 1-0 lead at the midway point.
“Anytime you can get a shorthanded goal, it’s a good momentum builder,” Ebbett said. “It kind of frustrates their top guys. Once we got that goal, we got a little bit better each shift after that.”
Zlobin gave the Penguins some much-needed secondary scoring and made it 2-0 three minutes later with a wrister that also beat Dubnyk on the glove side during the Penguins’ first power play of the night. It would be the first of two goals for Zlobin in the game, who played on the third line.
“Any team that goes deep in the playoffs, you need that third line,” Ebbett said, adding the matter was discussed recently in a players-only meeting. “We put a little pressure on the third line to step up and have some good cycle shifts. That line has been good for us the last four or five games.”
During the second period, Mannino was peppered with 10 shots but responded with several big saves. His best was a flash of the glove to rob Hamiton’s Sven Andrighetto from the low slot.
Mannino allowed one goal on the night and has given up only five goals in his last four starts.
“He’s given us a chance in every game,” Penguins coach John Hynes said. “When we had breakdowns, he made the save, and that helps your team with confidence.”
The Penguins offense continued to click. Kobasew scored in his first game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when he knocked in a bouncing puck at 14:53.
Brian Dumoulin put the Penguins up 4-1 just 23 seconds later when he gained the puck down low, waited and fired it past Dubnyk with Dominik Uher providing traffic in front.
The goal brought an early end to Dubnyk’s night, who was replaced by Robert Mayer.
Hynes said his team’s goals were all momentum-building.
“They were by the times in which they came,” he said. “Andrew’s goal off the penalty kill was key, and then you have Chuck’s and then Dumoulin right after that. Those were all momentum goals.”
Zlobin notched his second of the game midway through the third period when he sped into the Hamilton end ahead of two defenders and slipped the puck through the five-hole to give the Penguins a 5-1 lead. There was some question as to if the goal would stand, however, as referee T.J. Luxmore had to review a Hamilton shot from minutes earlier that hit the bottom of the crossbar.
Luxmore ruled that the Hamilton shot didn’t go in, so Zlobin’s goal stood.
The tally gave Zlobin his second two-goal game of the season and sealed the Penguins win.
• C Zach Sill (injury), RW Spencer Machacek (veteran scratch), D Barry Goers and LW Conor Sheary were scratched for the Penguins.
• C Jayson Megna was called up to Pittsburgh before Friday’s game.
• Ebbett’s tally was the Penguins’ second shorthanded penalty shot goal of the season. The first came on Dec. 11 by Harry Zolnierczyk.
• Despite not playing in the AHL since 2005, Kobasew now has a four-game point streak. He finished the 2004-05 regular season with Lowell with a three-game point streak. Before Friday, his last AHL goal came on April 16, 2005, against Portland.
Penguins 5, Hamilton 1
Scoring – 1. WBS, Andrew Ebbett 12 shorthanded, penalty shot 11:45. 2. WBS, Anton Zlobin 7 (Manderson, Zolnierczyk) power play 14:52. 3. HAM, Mike Blunden 14 (Schiestel, St. Pierre) 17:40. Penalties – WBS, McNeill (cross-checking) 10:53; HAM, Andrighetto (cross-checking) 13:10.
Scoring – 4. WBS, Chuck Kobasew 1 (Uher, Ebbett) 14:53. 5. WBS, Brian Dumoulin 4 (Zlobin, Manderson) 15:16. Penalties – HAM, Courtnall (fighting) 2:44; WBS, McNeill (fighting) 2:44; HAM, Thomas (slashing) 7:47; WBS, Zolnierczyk (roughing) 9:35; WBS, Zolnierczyk (tripping) 18:19.
Scoring – 6. WBS, Anton Zlobin 8 (Zolnierczyk, Mikkelson) 12:43. Penalties – WBS, Samuelsson (slashing) :13.
Shots on goal
Hamilton – 8-10-9-27
Penguins – 7-7-5-19
Hamilton – 0 of 4
Penguins – 1 of 2
Hamilton – Devan Dubnyk 0-3-0 (10 saves – 14 shots); Robert Mayer – 15:16 of the second period, (4-5)
Penguins – Peter Mannino 4-1-1 (26-27)
Hamilton – D Greg Pateryn, D Nathan Beaulieu, LW Nick Tarnasky, C Gabriel Dumont, RW Mike Blunden
Penguins – D Reid McNeill, D Philip Samuelsson, LW Adam Payerl, C Nick Drazenovic, RW Tom Kostopoulos
1. WBS, Anton Zlobin (two goals) 2. WBS, Andrew Ebbett (goal, assist) 3. WBS, Peter Mannino (one goal against, 26 saves)
Referee – T.J. Luxmore. Linesmen – Leo Boylan, Scott Pomento
Attendance – 5,778