HERSHEY — He doesn't know the system yet and is finding it challenging to find a comfort level playing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
But none of that stopped Chad Kolarik from playing the kind of hockey Sunday that'll endear him to his new teammates pretty quickly.
Bruised and bleeding, Kolarik banked a one-timer off the post and into the net with 10.8 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Penguins to a dramatic 2-1 victory over the rival Hershey Bears at the Giant Center.
The goal was incredible, marveled WBS Penguins coach John Hynes, but it's not just the talent. It's also about the circumstances leading up to it. He got high-sticked in the face, he's bleeding. Then he goes down and scores the winning goal.
That's one way to score a big point with his new team.
That sure helps, said Kolarik, one of the AHL's top scorers who was playing for Connecticut before being traded to the Penguins just before last week's All-Star Game. To be honest, I'm struggling a little trying to figure out the system.
It wasn't tough to figure out how Kolarik's gritty and resilient style will play with Penguins fans. With a small gash under his right eye still bubbling with blood after the game, Kolarik smiled over enduring through pain to produce his 18th goal of the season – and his first game-winner for the Penguins.
I think the puck bounced off me, Kolarik said, recalling the early moments of the winning play. The guy kind of whacked at it and hit me in the face.
I almost came off the ice there.
Fortunately for the Penguins, he stayed on long enough to post one past stingy Hershey goalie Dany Sabourin, who had stopped 37 of 38 shots before Kolarik unloaded a bomb from the top of the left circle.
I just tried to shoot as hard as I could, then hope, Kolarik said.
The Penguins appeared to be running out of hope for the longest time, with Sabourin so strong between the pipes.
Boyd Kane's power-play goal early in the second period gave Hershey a 1-0 lead, and the Bears clung to it past the midway point of the third.
But the Penguins kept chopping away, and finally tied the game when Riley Holzapfel muscled the puck past Sabourin with just under eight minutes to play in regulation.
He was playing real well, Hynes said of Sabourin, and we had to try to make a push, get pucks to the net.
It's finding a way to win the game.
Barely nine seconds later, Trevor Smith had a golden chance to put the Penguins ahead, but Sabourin stopped him one-on-one by snatching a wicked wrister from the air. Then Kolarik took a crack, missing his own one-on-one shot wide of the net.
That's when he got his first real taste of the bitterness between the Penguins and Bears.
It was intense, a lot of talking out there, Kolarik said. I don't think the fans like me here. It was fun. When I missed that shot, a couple fans behind the bench were giving it to me.
In the end, Kolarik gave it right back.
His winning goal came after Kane was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 1:15 to play in overtime, sending the Penguins on a last-minute power play and christening Kolarik with his first taste of Penguins stardom.
That's one of the reasons we got him, said Hynes, whose 24-18-2-1 team swept away with its third victory in less than three days. It's a win to be proud of for many reasons. It tells you a lot about the character and toughness of your team.
Penguins 2, Hershey 1 (OT)
First Period— Penalties: Penguins, Farnham (fighting), 3:10; Bears, Oleksy (fighting), 3:10; Bears, Brouillette (interference), 12:58.
Second Period—Scoring: 1. Bears, Kane 9 (Brouillette, Wellman), pp, 9:34. Penalties: Bears, Oleksy (clipping), 3:34; Penguins, MacIntyre (charging), 7:19; Penguins, MacIntyre (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:19.
Third Period—Scoring: 2. Penguins, Holzapfel 16 (, Peters), 12:03. Penalties: Penguins, Uher (slashing), 4:34; Bears, Syner (roughing), 4:24; Bears, Carmen (goaltender interference), 13:32; Penguins, Gibbons (goaltender interference), 17:01; Penguins, Peters (roughing), 17:01; Bears, Kalinski (roughing), 17:01.
Overtime—Scoring: 3. Penguins, Kolarik 18 (Smith, Grant), 4:49. Penalty: Bears, Kane (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:45.
Shots—Penguins 39, Bears 21. Goalies: Penguins, Zatkoff (15-12-0) 21 shots, 20 saves; Bears, Sabourin (6-7-1) 39 shots, 37 saves.
Referees—Trevor Hanson and Jon McIsaac. Linesmen—Tom George and Leo Boylan.