Defending Champ Toronto Hands Key Loss To Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

March 18, 2019
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Defending Champ Toronto Hands Key Loss To Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

WILKES-BARRE TWP. — A one-goal deficit would have been manageable.

But then the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins committed what Jimmy Hayes called a “cardinal sin” of hockey, and they never recovered.

The Penguins allowed two goals in the final minute of the second period, and the Toronto Marlies connected twice on the power play en route to their 4-2 win on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The loss kept the Penguins (30-24-6-3) five points behind Providence for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with only one game in hand.

“You give up goals here and there, but you’ve just got to bear down,” Hayes said. “Especially in the first and last minute of a period, you’ve got to be ready to play. You’ve got to be responsible when you’re out there, and so it’s just one of those things where it comes back to haunt you. We’ll learn from it and move on.”

Jarrett Burton scored with 5:49 remaining, but the defending Calder Cup champs shut down Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s last push with the net empty in the final two minutes. Michael Hutchinson made 37 saves, as the Penguins threw a lot of pucks at the goaltender but few that were very dangerous.

Meanwhile, all of Toronto’s heavyweights contributed in some way offensively — including a pair of assists for AHL leader Jeremy Bracco.

The teams began the game evenly matched, but the Penguins hurt themselves with self-inflicted penalties. Heading to the box for hooking at 8:49, Joseph Cramarossa received an extra two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct to give Toronto a four-minute power play. But after Burton committed another hook nearing the end of the extended kill, Chris Mueller camped out in front of the net and beat Tristan Jarry as the 5-on-3 advantage expired.

“We get almost right down to the end when we’re killing it, and we’ve got to be disciplined,” head coach Clark Donatelli said. “It’s part of beating ourselves. They’re too good to put on the power play.”

The Marlies added another man-advantage goal in the second period, as Adam Brooks shoveled in a rebound at 11:34 to double the score.

Hayes scored at the end of a Penguins power play to make the score 2-1, just before the final minute doomed Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Michael Carcone ripped a shot from the left of the slot that went past two bodies and Jarry at 19:21, and Pierre Engvall muscled his way to a rebound goal 19 seconds later.

Jarry was making his 10th consecutive start and had faced 31 shots by that point, but the Penguins kept him between the pipes for the final period. The last two goals were the result of breakdowns in front of the net, Donatelli said, and Jarry assured the coaches he wasn’t feeling any fatigue during the intermission.

With the Penguins playing in Hershey on Tuesday and three games in three days at the end of the week, John Muse or Anthony Peters will almost assuredly man the net at some point.

Hayes said the team still has reason for optimism despite taking only two of a possible four points this weekend against a pair of current playoff teams.

“We generated a lot of chances,” he said. “We’ve just got to continue to find ways to finish. We’ve showed we can play with these playoff teams, and we’re a team that’s pushing for the playoffs. The last 14 or so games we have here, we’ve just got to find a way to win games.”

Contact the writer: tpiccotti@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2089; @CVPiccotti on Twitter