By Robin Short
Special to the Times Leader
ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — Chad Kolarik scored just over two minutes into overtime to cap off a three-goal performance and give the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 5-4 win over the St. John’s IceCaps Sunday evening, stretching their unbeaten streak to seven games.
The Pens clinched an American Hockey League playoff spot with a 3-0 blanking of the IceCaps Saturday night, a result which officially dashed any playoff hopes for the home side.
Kolarik actually forced the extra session by netting the tying goal at 14:43 of the third period on a St. John’s turnover.
In overtime, Kolarik scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone, gained the St. John’s zone before wristing a shot that surprised IceCaps’ goalie Eddie Pasquale.
It was Kolarik’s team-leading 31st goal on the year.
“The reason why we’re winning games,” said Penguins coach John Hynes, “is we’re doing certain things real well and that’s what you want to have this time of year.
“We’re gearing up for the playoffs and it’s good when things are automatic and your team is playing a certain way. We’re a very confident group right now.”
Dominik Uher, who potted two goals in Saturday’s win, and Trevor Smith also scored for the Penguins. Josh Lunden, Ray Sawada, Julian Melchiori and Will O’Neill had the St. John’s markers.
Kolarik and Lunden traded goals to make it 1-1 after the opening 20 minutes, a period in which the Penguins outshot their hosts 13-6.
Uher put the Pens up 2-1 2:53 into the second, pouncing on a rebound and swatting the puck past Pasquale on the backhand. The lead was shortlived as Sawada cashed in on a shorthanded breakaway at the 4:07 mark.
The IceCaps took their first lead when Melchiori netted his first professional goal at 9:04, but Smith knotted the score 3-3 23 seconds after the Melchiori goal when the IceCaps’ Maxime Macenauer turned the puck over at his own blueline.
O’Neill gave St. John’s the lead once again at 11:54 of the third period, setting the stage for Kolarik to go to work and play the hero in St. John’s.
Brad Thiessen stopped 19 shots to earn his 16th win on the year. The Penguins peppered Pasquale with 34 shots.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has two remaining regular season games — this Friday and Saturday at home against the Worcester Sharks and Manchester Monarchs — before the post season begins, and Hynes likes how his team stacks up against Eastern Conference opponents.
“For starters,” he said, “we’re pretty healthy right now. And I like the balance on our club. We have a different mix of players. Guys can play on all four lines, and all six defencemen can play in any situation and they can all contribute in their own way.
“I like the way we look right now.”