NORFOLK, Va. – The drive from Scope Arena to Hershey is 318 miles.
It seemed shorter in the wee hours Sunday after Tom Kuhnhackl’s shot beat Norfolk goalie Brad Theissen in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Penguins a 2-1 win Saturday after a split of their weekend series with the Admirals.
The Pens got a goal from Mike Carman in the opening period and goalie Eric Hartzell made it stand until Devante Smith-Pelly countered for Norfolk in the second. Wilkes-Barre also withstood a three-shot power play assault in overtime to keep things even.
It was clear that coach John Hynes was unhappy a night earlier, when most of the Penguins’ fight showed in just that — fights. Hynes huddled with coaches, spoke briefly and tersely to reporters, then headed in to talk to a team that had lost 4-1 and had competed little while doing it.
“Emotional,” he called it.
It was obvious that he had delivered that message.
On Saturday, they channeled those emotions and competed all over the ice, particularly in the offensive end, where they fired 12 first-period shots at old friend Brad Thiessen and pressured Norfolk puckhandlers, who struggled to get the disc out of their own end of the ice.
Thiessen played with the Pens for four seasons before an aborted attempt in Finland found him looking for a job. Norfolk had one for him around Thanksgiving, and he was clearly looking forward to playing against Wilkes-Barre.
But the goalie struggled Saturday, leaving rebounds in playable range. Twice the Pens came close before Scott Harrington launched a shot from near the blue line that Thiessen slowed but could not stop. Paul Thompson ticked it before Carman flashed in from Thiessen’s right and poked at the puck.
It dribbled through Thiessen’s pads at a speed that wouldn’t have earned a speeding ticket on a city street, but it gave the Pens a 1-0 lead at 12:27 of the first period.
That was equaled with only 8.2 seconds to play in the second period when Norfolk’s Smith-Pelly won a faceoff and raced to his office, which is right next to the net.
The puck skidded to Sami Vatanen, who launched a wrist shot from beyond the right faceoff circle. Hartzell handled the shot easily enough, but Smith-Pelly was there alone for the rebound and slapped it home.
It’s become a habit for Smith-Pelly, who has scored in seven of the last nine Admirals’ games, with all of the goals coming from within an arm’s length of the net.
He scored twice on power plays Friday night.
The power play goal gave Norfolk man-advantage scores in its last eight games after going 4 for 50 over a three-plus stretch of December. The Admirals are 10 for 31 over that time.
The goal was on one of 17 straight Norfolk shots after the Pens had established a 21-8 advantage midway through the second period. In doing so, though, they had weathered a near-15 minute segment of the first in which they went shotless.
Norfolk’s shooting streak ended when Wilkes-Barre’s Nick Drazenovic fired from directly in front of Thiessen, a shot the goalie gloved.
Penguins 2, Norfolk 1, SO
Scoring-1, W-B/Scranton, Carman 4 (Thompson, Harrington), 12:27. Penalties-No Penalties
Scoring-2, Norfolk, Smith-Pelly 15 (Vatanen), 19:51 (PP). Penalties-Vatanen Nor (interference), 0:43; Vatanen Nor (slashing), 7:30; Letourneau-Leblond Wbs (interference), 10:42; Carman Wbs (high-sticking), 19:00.
Scoring- No Scoring.Penalties-Harrington Wbs (cross-checking), 3:05; Kostopoulos Wbs (tripping), 9:35; Ezekiel Nor (roughing), 9:35; Ezekiel Nor (roughing), 15:13; Sill Wbs (tripping), 19:34.
Scoring- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
W-B/Scranton 1 (Kostopoulos NG, Zolnierczyk NG, Despres NG, Drazenovic NG, Mikkelson NG, Dumoulin NG, Thompson NG, Kuhnhackl G), Norfolk 0 (Blacker NG, Etem NG, Friberg NG, Wagner NG, Smith-Pelly NG, Vatanen NG, Sauve NG, Grant NG).
Shots on Goal
Power Play Opportunities
W-B/Scranton 0 / 3
Norfolk 1 / 4
W-B/Scranton, Hartzell 8-2-1 (34 shots-33 saves)
Norfolk, Thiessen 1-1-2 (26 shots-25 saves)
Referees-Steve Patafie (85), Jamie Koharski (84).
Linesmen-Mark Hamlett (81), Jud Ritter (34).