WILKES-BARRE TWP. -- Using a tight-angled shot through a target most AHL players couldn't squeeze a dime through, Beau Bennett broke a tie with the type of goal he's become known for.
But he may relish setting them up even more.
Bennett and Riley Holzapfel assisted each other on key goals Friday and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins survived a late Crunch push to close the gap on Syracuse, using a 5-3 victory Friday to pull within two points of the East Division leaders.
Usually it's always been double (digits in) assists and goals, said Bennett, a Penguins rookie who played the past two seasons at the University of Denver. I do like to set up my teammates and set up the pass. It's something I've always looked to do.
He set up Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's victory beautifully at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Bennett, the BCHL rookie of the year last season and the Penguins points leader this year, broke a 1-1 tie midway through the second period by rifling a pass from Holzapfel through the slimmest of spaces between Crunch goalie Dustin Tokarski and the pipes.
I didn't have much, Bennett said. I wanted to pass it back to Riley. Luckily, it went in.
That's OK, Bennett found Holzapfel with a long, laser-like pass on a third period power play, setting up a 4-1 Penguins lead.
He's a great player, Holzapfel said of Bennett, Pittsburgh's first-round draft pick and the 20th overall of 2010. I love playing with him. It's an honor to play with him. He's got a great shot and great vision. He creates a lot of chances, offensively, for me.
That was the 10th assist of the season and the 15th point in 19 games for Bennett, a native of Gardena, Calif.
He's our leading scorer, said Penguins coach John Hynes, whose team improved to 12-7-0 and with 24 points is now just two shy of Syracuse's 26 points in the East Division. He's a guy we expect to be able to come in and perform offensively. It's not just scoring goals with him. He did a nice job. When he's on and going, you see the skill level.
The Penguins also saw what makes Syracuse so difficult to beat on the road.
The Tampa Bay affiliate and former team of players from last season's Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals entered the evening with a 9-0-1 road record.
And the Crunch didn't let their unbeaten skein disappear easily.
After Bennett and Brian Dumoulin scored second-period goals and Holzapfel put the Penguins up 4-1 midway through the third period, Syracuse came storming back.
Jean-Phillippe Cote and Philip-Michael Devos scored to pull the Crunch within 4-3 with over 2 1/2 minutes still on the clock.
But Penguins center Trevor Smith ended the night the way he began it - with a goal that sent Wlkes-Barre/Scranton fans celebrating.
With 6.1 seconds to play, Smith sent a shot from his own end of the ice into Syracuse's empty net, sealing the victory. Smith also started the game's scoring with a neat turnaround goal just over three minutes into the game.
It was a good win against a very good team, Hynes said. They're always competitive games. I was proud of how we battled and competed, particulary in the third (period).
First Period: 1.PEN, Smith, (Reese), 3:09; 2. SYR, Panik (Gudas), 18:58;
Second Period: 3. PEN, Bennett (Holzapfel, Peters), 8:49; 4. PEN, Dumoulin (Holzapfel, Dupois), 17:53
Third Period: 5. PEN, Holzapfel (Bennett), 9:24; 6. SYR, Connolly (Devos, Korobov), 10:45; 7. SYR, Devos (Barberio, Brown), 17:23; 8. PEN, Smith (Zatkoff), 19:53
Shots: Syracuse 35, Penguins 26
Saves: Syracuse 31 (Dustin, Tokarski), Penguins 23 (Jeff Zatkoff)
Attendance: 5,008; Three Stars: PEN, Riley Holzapfel, Beau Bennett, Brian Dumoulin
Officials: Darcy Burchell, referee; Ryan Murphy, referee; Scott Adams, linesman; Bob Fryer, linesman