NORFOLK, Va. – On a night when anything resembling finesse was checked at the door, a long-distance goal by Brendan Mikkelson loomed large.
A short-handed goal by Dominik Uher loomed even larger.
The scores by Mikkelson and Uher and Peter Mannino’s goaltending completed a Penguins’ weekend sweep Saturday with a 2-1 win over Norfolk, the third straight Wilkes-Barre/Scranton victory over a team that had been its nemesis all season until a couple of weeks ago.
The Pens completed a 9-2-0-1 March, with seven of the wins credited to Mannino. He didn’t give up more than two goals in any game during the month.
Uher’s third-period goal, scored shorthanded, turned out to be the game winner. He took a clearing pass from Scott Harrington and just outran Norfolk’s Jesse Blacker to the puck, then beat John Gibson with a shot off the crossbar to make it 2-0.
It was the only shot the Penguins managed for the first 14:06 of the period. They had only 13 all game.
They had opened a 1-0 lead when Mikkelson took a cross-ice pass from Andrew Ebbett and blasted away from the blue line. The puck made its way through a four-player thicket in front of Gibson.
The lead was cut in half when Norfolk’s Devante Smith-Pelly popped a power-play shot over a sprawled out Mannino, who had just thwarted Andre Petterson on a shot from left wing.
It was clear from the outset that the order of the evening was for physical play. Boards were rattled and it took only 54 seconds for officials to issue a warning to Norfolk’s Zach Stortini and the Pens’ Pierre Letourneau-Leblond, both heavyweights, that a reprise of their Friday fisticuffs wasn’t welcomed.
Both got unsportsmanlike conduct calls for doing little more than looking crossly at each other.
At the same time relative lightweight Bobby Farnham decided that he didn’t much like Stortini either and expressed as much. Continued disdain, this time against Norfolk’s Kevin Gagne, more Farnham’s size, earned him a midconduct penalty.
Oh, and there was hockey. Well, some.
Mannino faced 10 shots in the opening period alone, including a long bomb by Nolan Yonkman and a shorter follow-up by Chris Wagner that required a sprawling save.
Mannino also got by with the help of his friends.
A shot by Norfolk’s Petersson was slowed by not stopped and trickled toward the goal line behind Mannino. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin reached back and scraped the puck away just before it reached the goal line to save things.
Mannino’s heroics stretched into the second period when he faced a straight-on blast by Smith-Pelley on a power play in the closing minute. The puck popped up and Mannino swatted it away from danger to again preserve the lead.
He finished the weekend with 43 saves in 45 shots in running his record to 21-15-3 and putting the Penguins closer to clinching a playoff berth.