WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Coming into Friday's game against the Hershey Bears, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins penalty kill was a perfect 32-for-32 in its last six games.
That's good and bad.
Sure, the penalty kill is a big reason why the Penguins won five of their last six before Friday after an 0-4 start, but when a team is allowing more than five power plays a game they're not going to kill them all.
That's what allowed the Bears to beat the Penguins 3-1 on Friday, as four Wilkes-Barre/Scranton penalties in the second period led to a pair of Hershey power play goals.
The penalty kill is working at a good rate right now, but it comes down to being disciplined, said forward Trevor Smith. They got two power play goals and that's what cost us the game. We have to be more disciplined.
On the night, the Hershey power play was 3-for-7, but that wasn't the only factor that cost the Penguins the game.
For the second straight contest, the Penguins faced a legit goaltender. On Wednesday it was Binghamton's Robin Lehner, who blanked the Penguins through regulation and overtime while stopping all 34 shots he faced.
Friday night it was Braden Holtby, and he stopped 32 consecutive shots until Riley Holzapfel connected with a backhander in close midway through the third period.
Holtby stopped 38 of 39 shots to give the Penguins their second loss in the last seven games. Both of those losses have been to the Bears.
It's hard, said center Phil Dupuis, who registered three shots on Holtby. The league's better this year and now the goalies that are facing us are hot. It's something we need to battle through.
The Penguins did battle, outshooting Hershey 15-8 in the first period.
But penalty trouble in the second disrupted any offensive momentum and allowed Hershey to gain the lead.
After Boyd Kane's power play goal less than two minutes into the period made it 1-0, the Penguins put themselves in a hole again when Warren Peters and Dupuis were whistled for minors one minute apart.
That gave the Bears a full minute with a two-man advantage, and they needed only 40 seconds to convert and make it 2-0.
The second period was marred with penalties and that took away a little bit of the momentum because you're killing for that long, said head coach John Hynes. It's a competitive, good hockey game. Sometimes the referees get involved and it takes away from the players being able to play.
In danger of being shutout for the second straight game, Holzapfel put the Penguins on the board halfway through the third period when he backhanded a Bobby Farnham pass into the net to cut Hershey's lead to 2-1.
The Penguins had a couple of opportunities late in the period to even the score. Smith narrowly missed on a wrist shot from the slot, and Peters tried to puck the puck through during a jam-up in front.
On the night, the Penguins fired a season-high 39 shots at Holtby, but the offense was missing one key element.
We just couldn't finish, Smith said. (Holtby) is a known goaltender in the league. He's been an all-star. But it doesn't change our game plan. We just didn't capitalize on our chances.
- The Penguins will face another hot goaltender tonight when they host the Portland Pirates at 7:05. Portland's Chad Johnson has allowed four goals in his last four starts, including two shutouts.
- D Joey Mormina, D Joseph Morrow, C Zach Sill (upper body), C Jayson Megna (lower body), C Dominik Uher and D Alex Grant were scratched for the Penguins.
First Period Scoring – None. Penalties – HER, Oleksy (high-sticking) 14:31; WBS, Strait (interference) 17:45.
Second Period Scoring – 1. HER, Boyd Kane 3 (Kundratek, Stafford) power play 1:17. 2. HER, Zach Hamill 3 (Taffe, Stafford) power play 16:51. Penalties – WBS, Peters (interference) :19; HER, Schilling (cross-checking) 3:06; WBS, Bortuzzo (interference) 9:16; HER, Oleksy (interference, fighting) 12:20; WBS, Farnham (fighting) 12:20; WBS, Peters (interference) 15:12; WBS, Dupuis (holding) 16:12.
Third Period Scoring – 3. WBS, Riley Holzapfel 3 (Farnham, Dupuis) 10:49. 4. HER, Jeff Taffe 4 (DiSalvatore) empty net 19:58. Penalties – HER, Almeida (holding) 3:56; WBS, Tangradi (boarding) 4:44; WBS, Farnham (tripping) 18:42.
Shots on goal Hershey – 8-7-6-21 Penguins – 15-13-11-39
Power-play Opportunities Hershey – 2 of 7 Penguins – 0 of 4
Goaltenders Hershey – Braden Holtby 3-2-0 (38 saves – 39 shots) Penguins – Jeff Zatkoff 4-5-0 (18-20)
Starters Hershey – G Braden Holtby, D Kevin Marshall, D Steve Oleksy, LW Boyd Kane, C Mike Carman, RW Jon DiSalvatore Penguins – G Jeff Zatkoff, D Brian Strait, D Robert Bortuzzo, LW Brian Gibbons, C Warren Peters, RW Paul Thompso
Three Stars 1. HER, Zach Hamill (game-winning goal) 2. HER, Garrett Stafford (two assists) 3. WBS, Riley Holzapfel (goal) Referee – David Banfield. Linesmen – Bob Goodman, Matt McNulty