WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Everything Brian Gibbons touched during Friday’s game against the Adirondack Phantoms turned into a goal.
Well, almost everything. Virtually every play Gibbons created resulted in either a goal, an assist or a quality scoring chance, and that was a big reason why the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins dominated the Phantoms for a 6-3 win.
Gibbons had a goal and two assists while his linemate, Jayson Megna, added a pair of goals on the night, courtesy of assists from Gibbons.
It’s a vast reversal from last season when Gibbons and Megna had difficulty converting the scoring chances they created together. On Friday, it almost seemed easy.
“I wasn’t burying them for him last year,” Megna said. “Finally, they’re starting to go in. (Gibbons) has been great for me and I like to think I contribute something to his game to.”
On Friday, the Penguins put up goals without top scorers Chris Conner and Harry Zolnierczyk, who have been called up to Pittsburgh. Aside from Gibbons and Megna, goals came from Tom Kuhnhackl, Dominik Uher and Adam Payerl as several players stepped up to fill the void left by the call-ups.
“Guys that hadn’t been in the lineup were coming in hungry,” head coach John Hynes said. “I think they looked at tonight as an opportunity to take charge.”
The Penguins are now 4-0 on the season as they kick off a three-game stint this weekend. The six-goal outburst gives the Penguins 20 goals in their first four games this season. Last season, they didn’t hit the 20-goal mark until their eighth game on Nov. 2.
“The players have been making good plays,” Hynes said. “Right now, their intensity in and around the net and scoring areas is good. They’re capitalizing on chances.”
While there were many contributors on Friday, Megna and Gibbons were the catalysts.
Gibbons got things started early after he crashed into the boards. While on his knees, Gibbons alertly swiped the puck away from an Adirondack player rushing out the zone, skated down and dished a pass across to Megna, who put it home for a 1-0 lead a minute into the game.
“I lost an edge or tripped over my own feet and fell into the boards. I was on the ice and I don’t know if the defenseman saw me,” Gibbons said. “He was looking up and I was able to pick his pocket.”
Kuhnhackl’s first goal of the season three minutes later erased a Phantoms’ tally to make it 2-1 to close out the first period.
The Penguins scored three more in the second period, including Megna’s second of the game along with tallies by Payerl and Uher.
Gibbons teamed with Megna midway through the period while on the penalty kill. He skated the puck into the Adirondack end with Megna streaking down the slot and hit him with a perfect pass. Megna shot the puck home to give the Penguins a commanding 4-1 lead.
“If you get a breakaway or a two-on-one, you don’t get many of those, so it’s a turning point one way or another in a game,” Gibbons said. “I don’t think Megna and I changed the way we’ve played, but have just done a better job finishing.”
To cap off his eventful night, Gibbons scored a power play goal midway through the third period to give the Penguins a 6-2 lead.
So what does Friday’s big win mean for the rest of the weekend as the Penguins take on Worcester and Manchester?
“We learned a lot about how we need to play to have success. You saw a lot of that tonight,” Gibbons said.
• Chris Conner was called up to Pittsburgh before Friday’s game, and Harry Zolnierczyk remained with the big club. That created openings for Paul Thompson and Bobby Farnham to return to the lineup. Adam Payerl also benefitted from an increase in minutes and responded with a goal.
• Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond had a classic heavyweight bout in the second period with PL3 earning the win. Both players ignored the new helmet rule when they voluntarily took off their helmets before fighting. The move earned each an additional two minute delay of game minor.
• D Peter Merth, C Mike Carman, LW Anton Zlobin, D Dustin Stevenson and D Harrison Ruopp were scratched for the Penguins.
Penguins 6, Adirondack 3
Adirondack`1` 1` 1` —` 3
Penguins `2 `3 `1 `— `6
Scoring – 1. WBS, Jayson Megna 2 (Gibbons) 1:08. 2. ADK, Bruno Gervais 2 (Cousins, Mathers) 2:37. 3. WBS, Tom Kuhnhackl 1 (Uher, Ebbett) 4:52. Penalties – ADK, Delisle (fighting) 1:45; WBS, Payerl (fighting) 1:45; WBS, bench – served by Leblond (too many men) 9:08; ADK, Holmstrom (slashing) 10:04; WBS, Mikkelson (cross-checking) 10:04.
Scoring – 4. WBS, Adam Payerl 1 (Samuelsson, Despres) 5:14. 5. WBS, Jayson Megna 3 (Gibbons, Mikkelson) shorthanded 9:14. 6. ADK, Nick Cousins 1 (Straka, Alderson) 10:27. 7. WBS, Uher 2 (Mikkelson) 14:28. Penalties – ADK, Bordson (roughing) 1:49; WBS, Thompson (boarding, roughing) 1:49; ADK, Manning (slashing) 2:46; WBS, Despres (interference) 8:15; ADK, Manning (misconduct) 9:14; ADK, Noebels (roughing) 9:14; WBS, Gibbons (slashing) 9:14; WBS, Harrington (misconduct) 9:14; ADK, Delisle (roughing – double minor) 14:54; ADK, Fitsgerald (delay of game, fighting) 14:54; WBS, Farnham (roughing) 14:54; WBS, Leblond (delay of game, fighting) 14:54; ADK, Brown (slashing) 16:12.
Scoring – 8. WBS, Brian Gibbons 2 (Thompson, Ebbett) power play 10:08. 9. ADK, Rob Bordson 3 (Gervais, Noebels) 18:06. Penalties – WBS, Uher (roughing) 4:04; ADK, Alt (high-sticking double-minor) 9:42; WBS, Kostopoulos (holding) 18:44.
Shots on goal
Adirondack – 7-4-14-25
Penguins – 16-13-7-36
Adirondack – 0 of 5
Penguins – 1 of 5
Adirondack – Cal Heeter 0-2-0 (24 saves – 29 shots); Yann Danis – start of the third period (6-7)
Penguins – Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers 4-0-0 (22-25)
Adirondack – G Cal Heeter, D Mark Alt, D Matt Konan, LW Tyler Brown, C Petr Straka, RW Chris VandeVelde
Penguins – G Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, D Philip Samuelsson, D Simon Despres, LW Dominik Uher, C Nick Drazenovic, RW Tom Kostopoulos
1. WBS, Jayson Megna (two goals) 2. WBS, Brian Gibbons (goal, two assists) 3. Domink Uher (goal, assist)
Referee – Fred LeBlanc. Linesmen – Bob Fyrer, Matt McNulty
Attendance – 4,414