WILKES-BARRE TWP. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins didn't need this kind of consistency.
During their first meeting of a home-and-home series against Hershey on Wednesday, the Penguins allowed Bears' forward Garrett Mitchell to score the opening goal at the 3:56 mark of the first period.
The Bears won that game 2-0.
Back at home on Thursday, Mitchell scored the opening goal again – this time at the 3:32 mark of the first period.
And the Bears won again – 4-1.
Similar starts and similar outcomes – neither of which was a benefit to the Penguins.
We're kind of in a rough spot right now, said winger Zach Sill after Thursday's loss, which was the Penguins eighth in the last nine games.
The loss drops the Penguins to 14-13-1-1 and they are now 1-5-1-0 against Hershey this season. Last year, the Penguins posted an impressive 7-3-0-2 mark against their East Division rival.
What's the difference?
They are a lot harder working, said winger Zach Sill, a veteran of many battles against Hershey over the years. They have more grinding guys as opposed to the amount of skill they had the last couple of years. They bring hard work every game.
The Bears went to work right away with Mitchell's first period goal – a shot from the corner off a rebound, to make it 1-0.
The Bears added two more in the second period – the first a wrister from Steve Oleksy that sailed under Jeff Zatkoff's arm and the other a Mathieu Beaudoin power play tally, to put the Penguins in a 3-0 hole.
After the first two periods, the Penguins outshot the Bears 19-15 but failed to post anything on the scoreboard.
We need to be a little more opportunistic and bear down when we have chances, Paul Thompson said. That was the difference.
With Brad Thiessen replacing Zatkoff in net to start the third, the Penguins received a boost early when Hershey's Evan Barlow was called for cross-checking and slashing. With four minutes of power play time, the Penguins connected on the first half with a deflection goal from Thompson in front. The goal was the second power play tally in the last 41 chances for the Penguins and staved off the chance of being shutout on consecutive nights.
But a goal from Hershey's Boyd Kane with less than two minutes to play gave the Bears the 4-1 win.
In their last 10 games, the Penguins are 2-6-1-1. They're in the middle of a four-game stretch against division opponents, and after dropping the first two to Hershey, the Penguins are only three points ahead of the last place Norfolk Admirals. They face Norfolk at home on Saturday, followed by a New Year's Eve meeting against first-place Syracuse.
Against East Division opponents this season, the Penguins are 5-11, as opposed to 9-4 against the rest of the league.
It's creeping along to the halfway point, but we're not in panic mode by any means, Sill said. We're just looking to get back on track.
• D Joey Mormina, D Philip Samuelsson, LW Beau Bennett (injury), RW Tom Kuhnhackl (injury), D Alex Grant, LW Steve MacIntyre and RW Keven Veilleux were scratched for the Penguins.
• With 17 penalty minutes on the night, Farnham is tied for ninth in the AHL with 100 PIMs.
• Four of Mitchell's seven goals this season have come against the Penguins.
• The Penguins are now 1-3 without Bennett in the lineup.
Scoring – 1. HER, Garrett Mitchell 7 (Hamill, Taffe) 3:32. Penalties – HER, Marshall (boarding, fighting, misconduct) 4:06; WBS, Farnham (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting, misconduct) 4:06; HER, Potulny (boarding) 13:53; WBS, Smith (charging) 19:13.
Scoring – 2. HER, Steven Oleksy 1 (Taffe, Mitchell) 5:50. 3. HER, Mathieu Beaudoin 3 (Barlow, Kane) power play 18:08. Penalties – HER, Brouillette (holding) 11:55; HER, Oleksy (roughing) 16:21; WBS, Thompson (roughing – double minor) 16:21; WBS, Bortuzzo (interference) 19:40.
Scoring – 4. WBS, Paul Thompson 9 (Morrow, Tangradi) power play 4:52. 5. HER, Boyd Kane 6 (Sjogren, Kundratek) 18:34. Penalties – HER, Barlow (cross-checking, slashing) 3:44; HER, Schilling (fighting) 17:20; WBS, Despres (fighting) 17:20.
Shots on goal
Hershey – 6-9-4-19
Penguins – 11-8-8-27
Hershey – 1 of 3
Penguins – 1 of 4
Hershey – Dany Sabourin 4-4-0 (26 saves – 27 shots)
Penguins – Jeff Zatkoff 11-9-0 (12-15); Brad Thiessen – start of the third period (3-4)
Hershey – D Cameron Schilling, D Steven Oleksy, LW Bord Kane, C Mattias Sjogren, RW Mathieu Beaudoin
Penguins – D Dylan Reese, D Simon Despres, LW Benn Ferriero, C Riley Holzapfel, RW Paul Thompson
1. HER, Garrett Mitchell (goal, assist) 2. HER Jeff Taffe (two assists) 3. HER, Boyd Kane (goal, assist)
Referee – TJ Luxmore. Linesmen – Bob Fyrer, Jud Ritter
Attendance – 6,378