Di Pauli Scores Twice, Pens Beat Bears
The bounces finally went Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s way.
Thomas Di Pauli got in the way of a blue-line shot by a Hershey Bear and chased the deflection down the ice of the Giant Center. He was the first one to the puck, and he had enough space to cut right and score on a back-handed shot.
A slapshot later in Wednesday night’s first period ricocheted off Teddy Blueger and veered down the ice. Once again, Di Pauli won the race to the puck and sent a wrist shot past goalie Ilya Samsonov’s glove.
Breaks like those were just what the Penguins needed following five consecutive narrow losses, including two setbacks in overtime. Their two-goal lead at the intermission held up in a 3-1 victory over divisional rival Hershey, the Pens’ first win in 14 days.
Before Di Pauli scored either of his goals, Hershey had a similar opportunity in the opening period.
The Penguins stole the puck and set up in the offensive zone, but Tim Erixon’s shot from the blue line deflected off the Bears’ Liam O’Brien. O’Brien darted through the middle and had a clean break on goal until a stick from behind sent him crashing into the net.
The play was whistled for the first penalty shot in a Pens game this season. Goaltender Anthony Peters was up for the challenge and turned away a blocker-side look from O’Brien, a minute before Di Pauli put Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the lead.
3. Hershey’s Jayson Megna scored its lone goal in the third period; he also put the Bears on the board when they beat the Penguins last time out on Nov. 24.
2. Peters couldn’t quite post his second shutout of the season, but his 26 saves preserved the team’s lead.
1. Di Pauli did it all on his two goals, beating the Bears from his own defensive zone and smoothly finishing both breakaways.
Stat to know
Di Pauli is now up to 10 points in his last nine games. He’s finished a night without a point only twice in that span.
It’ll take more than one win to put a frustrating two weeks behind the Penguins (9-8-3-1, 22 pts), but Wednesday’s performance against the Atlantic’s last-place team was a start.
A bit of puck luck helped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton start the second period with a 2-0 lead, and it didn’t waste it.
On its first man-advantage of the night, the Penguins — who own the Atlantic’s worst power play percentage — converted on a slick sequence. Adam Johnson gathered a crossing pass at the right side and sent it back across the crease for Ryan Haggerty, who tapped home a back-door goal.
It was a boost for the special teams unit and for Haggerty, too; he snapped a 37-game scoreless streak in regular season action.
When Hershey (9-11-0-1, 19 pts) scored and continued to pressure late, the Penguins didn’t fold. Peters reached wide for an impressive glove save that killed a potential momentum swing.
All of the above contributed to the Pens snapping their longest losing streak since they dropped five in a row from Feb. 13-23, 2016.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will try to get on a roll during a North Division road swing.
The Penguins face division-leading Rochester at 7:05 p.m. Friday and then Toronto — the North’s highest-scoring attack — at 4 p.m. Saturday.
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Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2 1 0 - 3
Hershey 0 0 1 - 1
1st Period-1, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Di Pauli 5 7:06. 2, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Di Pauli 6 (Blueger), 16:01. Penalties-Blueger Wbs (roughing, roughing), 19:14; Walker Her (roughing, roughing), 19:14.
2nd Period-3, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Haggerty 1 (Johnson, Lafferty), 4:52 (PP). Penalties-Pinho Her (slashing), 3:30; Di Pauli Wbs (slashing), 6:05.
3rd Period-4, Hershey, Megna 6 (Shumakov, Gersich), 0:28. Penalties-Angello Wbs (holding), 10:10; Barber Her (tripping), 14:37; Angello Wbs (interference), 16:00; Ness Her (tripping), 17:48.
Shots on Goal-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 13-9-7-29. Hershey 6-10-11-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1 / 3; Hershey 0 / 3.
Goalies-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Peters 5-2-2 (27 shots-26 saves). Hershey, Samsonov 3-7-0 (29 shots-26 saves).
Referees-Jordan Deckard (14), Furman South (44).
Linesmen-Bob Goodman (90), Tom DellaFranco (71).