SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goalie Peter Mannino stuck to his usual routine of 10 minutes on a stationary bike late Friday night.
He said he likes to do that after every game, but the way the Penguins have supported him the last two contests such exercise seems to be the only way he can break a sweat these days.
Mannino posted 16 saves for his second whitewash in a row and teammates Spencer Machacek and Adam Payerl scored first-period goals that stood up the rest of the way as the Penguins continued their roll with a 2-0 win over Syracuse in the War Memorial.
Mannino is now on a whitewash streak of 162 minutes, 40 seconds. But in his last two blankings, he’s been called upon to make a mere 28 stops combined.
“I think the system is clicking,’’ Mannino said. “We’ve made some adjustments the past couple of games to play playoff hockey. It’s just happening. We’re going to try and ride it as far as we can.’’
So far, the Penguins hot streak has provided the team a pretty good view of the AHL landscape. They have points in seven straight (6-0-0-1) and with Binghamton beating Norfolk on Friday remain one point behind the Senators for the East Division lead.
“That’s a lot of clutch hockey by the guys, knowing we need points to make the playoffs,’’ Mannino said. “You see how tight the conference is. We’re in a dogfight.’’
A complete Crunch penalty kill breakdown with 2:21 left in the first set up Payerl for the chance that made it 2-0 Pens.
Payerl somehow got lost down the middle of the ice as the puck flopped around the left boards. Denver Manderson saucered a pass to Payerl, who put a deke on Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlevskis before sliding home his bid.
Gudlevskis gift-wrapped the game’s first goal for Machacek with 12:22 left in the opening period. The goalie played the puck along the left post, and let it sit there thinking a teammate was nearby to scoop it up.
But Machacek got to the biscuit first and easily beat the out-of-position netminder for a 1-0 Pens edge.
“Any time you can get a lead, that will set the tone,’’ Mannino said. “We were fortunate to get a couple early, and we built off that.’’
The Pens as a team took it from there. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton kept the Crunch claustrophobic in its own zone, preventing struggling Syracuse from challenging Mannino at the other end.
“We’ve been talking a lot about having good jump in the neutral zone. I think a lot of it comes from the forwards. It shows how hard they are working,’’ said Penguins defenseman Philip Samuelsson.
Mannino managed to stay sharp despite his frequent down time. He is now 5-0-0-1 with a .82 goals-against and a .961 save percentage since returning from Wheeling of the ECHL at the end of February.
“He’s come in and played great for us,’’ Samuelsson said. “He makes the big saves when he needs to. It’s nice to have that calm presence out there.’’
There’s also plenty of energy left in reserve for Mannino in the games when he is tested. He’s played in just 10 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, giving him and the Pens reason to believe he’ll only get sharper.
“I haven’t played much this year,’’ Mannino said. “I feel like I’m catching up on games. I just want to play as much as possible. I feel good right now. The team is winning. Everyone should feel good.’’