Late Goal Helps Bears Beat Penguins
WILKES-BARRE Twp. — For two periods, the Hershey Bears put on a shot-blocking clinic.
When the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins finally did challenge Vitek Vanecek, the Czech goaltender was ready.
Vanecek made several key saves in the third period, and Mike Sgarbossa gave Hershey needed insurance with a late goal in a 3-2 win over the Penguins on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The loss is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s sixth in eight games.
The Penguins’ special teams continued to be two of their primary undoings. The power play had three opportunities in the first period, and five total, but generated few scoring chances and often struggled transitioning into the offensive zone.
“They’ve got a pretty good kill, they’re pretty aggressive, and we just struggled a little bit early,” Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said. “We’ve got to stay out of the box. But, yeah, (special teams were) a big part of it tonight.”
The penalty kill showed signs of improvement, but also allowed a goal for the 11th straight game. Jayson Megna did the honors early in the second period, when Penguins goaltender John Muse sprawled to cover a loose puck and couldn’t quite reach it. All the Bears forward needed to do was elude a sprawling Kevin Czuczman, and he did at 5:26.
Muse, making his first start of the season after being recalled from Wheeling, was otherwise steady in net and made 31 saves. His only other blemishes came on a fluky 2-on-1 rush in the second and Sgarbossa’s tally with 3:32 left.
The Penguins (8-7-3-1) struggled to find any kind of shooting space early on, putting only 13 shots toward Vanecek through two periods. Czuczman said the Penguins’ defensemen were often creeping too far away from the blue line and toward Hershey’s defensive coverage, feeding into the shot blocks.
The Penguins did a better job of testing the goaltender in the third, with Jarrett Burton and Thomas Di Pauli both getting close looks in the final 10 minutes. However, their only tally came in the final minute came off Czuczman’s stick with 44 seconds left and Muse pulled.
“That’s a thing where you can jump on these goalies early in this league,” Czuczman said. “We never really did that. When we simplify, we’ll be all right.”
Di Pauli stayed red-hot, tying the game at 1 midway through the second off a nice pass from Ryan Haggerty behind the net.
Saturday’s game marked only the one-quarter mark of the season. However, the Penguins now find themselves sixth in the division and only one point ahead of Hershey. Their power play ranks only 25th, and the penalty killed remains mired in last place.
As a result, Czuczman said a sense of urgency is definitely starting to set in. The team will have one more chance to salvage the weekend today with another home game against last-place Providence.
“We’re held to such a high standard in this organization, as we should be,” Czuczman said. “It’s unacceptable losing like that. We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got to make our own bounces and make our own luck. I believe in this group here we have.
“We’ve been given every opportunity to succeed and just have to go do it.”
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