WILKES-BARRE TWP. ‚?? Midway through the first period of Sunday‚??s game against the Syracuse Crunch, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins found themselves in a familiar situation ‚?? trying to kill of a power play.
In the first three games of the season, the Penguins have been shorthanded for at least five minutes of the first period. Sunday was no different, but there were a few twists.
Not only did the Penguins find themselves shorthanded against one of the top offenses in the AHL, they were also down a man for a full five minutes thanks to a boarding major issued to Joe Morrow.
The Crunch made them pay, scoring two goals during the five minute power play en route to a 3-1 win. The loss wraps up a dismal weekend for the Penguins. They lost all three games and, even worse, start the season 0-4 ‚?? the only team in the league without a point.
After Sunday‚??s loss, head coach John Hynes said the five-minute power play for Syracuse was the difference-maker.
‚??You give that much time in one block to that talented of a team, and more often then not you‚??re going to pay the price,‚?Ě he said.
Actually, the Penguins got behind earlier in the period when Keith Aulie finished off a nifty pass play down low to give Syracuse a 1-0 lead in the first four minutes.
Later, Morrow was assessed a boarding major and a game misconduct after he drove Vladislav Namenstnikov into the wall. During the five-minute power play, Syracuse connected twice ‚?? a doorstep tap-in from Cory Conacher and a one-timer from the dot by Tyler Johnson, and the Penguins were down by three to close out the period.
While Hynes said the major was the difference in the game, he also noted that the first period penalty woes are a main factor behind the winless start.
‚??It‚??s something we have to get out of our game,‚?Ě Hynes said. ‚??It‚??s not a recipe we want to continue to cook.‚?Ě
But penalty trouble isn‚??t the only problem facing the Penguins. During the next two periods, they did generate offense by putting plenty of shots on net, making decent passes down low and generating plenty of chances as a result.
But, as has been the case in the first three games, precious few of those chances were finished.
Veteran center Philippe Dupuis, who scored the Penguins only goal with a power play tally late in the third period, said a lack of line chemistry is to blame.
‚??It takes a little bit of time to create chemistry. Our first three games we were playing 11 forwards, and everyone plays with everyone,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Once we get that chemistry going, I think it‚??s going to be a lot easier.‚?Ě
To get that chemistry, the Penguins are going to have to score more than the league-low six goals they have registered after four games.
‚??We‚??ve had a lot of chances on net, a lot of offensive zone time and a lot of opportunities to score,‚?Ě Hynes said. ‚??The difference is they haven‚??t gone in the net.
‚??Sometimes when you pop a couple of goals, it helps your chemistry grow. We‚??re there, but they‚??re just not going in right now.‚?Ě
The Penguins haven‚??t lost four straight games in regulation since January of the 2009-2010 season.
Are they panicking? Not yet, but Dupuis said it‚??s something they really need to think about.
‚??You can‚??t overreact, but at the same time there has to be some urgency. We have to step it up, do a little more,‚?Ě he said.
Rather than spend the next two periods chipping away at the Syracuse lead, the Penguins spent it just trying to get on the same page. Passes missed their mark, scoring chances went unfinished and offensive zone time wasn‚??t sustained.
‚?Ę D Joey Mormina, D Philip Samuelsson, C Zach Sill (upper body), C Jayson Megna (lower body), RW Tom Kuhnhackl, D Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), D Alex Grant and RW Keven Veilleux were scratched for the Penguins.
‚?Ę The Penguins next game is Friday at home against Rochester.
First period: Scoring- 1. SYR, Keith Aulie (Ondrej Palat, Brett Connolly), 3:38; 2. SYR, Cory Conacher (Connolly, Palat), 16:03; 3. SYR, Tyler Johnson (Mark Barberio, Alex Killorn), 17:54. Penalties- WBS, Dylan Reese (interference), 1:30; WBS, Joe Morrow (major boarding), 13:20; WBS, Morrow (game misconduct), 13:20; SYR, Eric Neilson (tripping), 18:36.
Second period: Scoring- None. Penalties- SYR, Ondrej Palat (boarding), 4:03; SYR, Jean-Philippe Cote (fighting), 6:02; Jared Nightingale (roughing), 6:02; WBS, Warren Peters (fighting), 6:02; WBS, Paul Thompson (roughing), 6:02; SYR, Mike Angelidis (hooking), 16:09.
Third period: Scoring- WBS, Philippe Dupuis (Brian Dumoulin, Reese), 18:03. Penalties- WBS, Riley Holzapfel (high-sticking), 3:28; SYR, Pierre-Cedric Labrie (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:56; WBS, Dupuis (hooking), 9:56; WBS, Simon Despres (cross-checking), 11:23, SYR, Palat (interference), 17:23.
Shots on goal: SYR 9-4-7-20, WBS 6-9-6-21; Power-play Opportunities: SYR-2 of 7; WBS- 1 of 5 Goaltenders: SYR- Dustin Tokarski (20 saves- 21 shots), WBS- Jeff Zatkoff (17 saves- 20 shots) Three Stars: 1. SYR, Keith Aulie (goal) 2. Brett Connolly (2 assists) 3. Dustin Tokarski (20 saves). Referees: Jamie Koharski. Linesmen- Tom George, Matt McNulty Attendence: 4,203