WILKES-BARRE TWP. – It could be argued that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fell victim to penalties at inopportune times during Sunday's game against Norfolk.
Seemingly everytime the Penguins began to get into a flow, a penalty brought things to an abrupt halt.
But on the other hand, the Penguins may have fallen victim to a penalty that wasn't called during a 3-2 loss to the Admirals.
With less than four minutes remaining in the third period with a 2-2 tie, Norfolk went on the power play. Early into the man advantage, defenseman Joey Mormina sprawled to the ice after an apparent high-stick caught him in the face.
If there was an infraction, referees Matt Kirk and Geoff Miller didn't call it, and Norfolk remained on the power play, which led to the game-winning goal from Carter Ashton soon after.
"It's sad to see they don't call the high stick on Mo at the end and they score on the power play," said Penguins defenseman Alexandre Picard, who scored the game-tying goal earlier in the third period.
"I thought those referees tonight, I don't know who they are or what experience they have in the American Hockey League, but both of them didn't have their A game tonight."
The loss drops the Penguins to 32-18-2-5 and they fall four points behind the Admirals for first place in the East Division. The game was the final home matchup against Norfolk for the Penguins, and the Admirals have now won all five at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
That didn't matter much to head coach John Hynes, who said there was no significance to Norfolk sweeping the season series in the Penguins arena.
What does matter, Hynes said, is the Penguins need to find a way to beat the Admirals consistently, especially if they are to face each other in the playoffs.
On the season, the Penguins are 2-6 against the Admirals with two more games to play in Norfolk.
"There's a challenge in front of us that we have to find a way to be able to beat this team," Hynes said. "A challenge to find a way to beat them regularly, whether it's at home or on the road."
After a scoreless first period, penalties allowed both teams to get on the board in the second. The Penguins capitalized first with a Ben Street wrist shot to the far side for a power play goal and a 1-0 lead.
In the last five minutes of the period the Admirals evened things up when Mark Barberio beat rookie goaltender Patrick Killeen, who was making his first AHL start, with a shot from the low slot during a power play to make it 1-1.
Norfolk took the lead in the third period when former Penguin J-P Cote blasted a shot from the top of the slot to make it 2-1, followed by Picard's slapshot goal to erase the Admiral's lead and tie things up, 2-2.
With less than four minutes to play and Alex Grant in the penalty box, the Penguins went on the kill for the seventh time in the game. Seconds into the power play, Mormina hit the ice in the Penguins end with his hands on his face. Play continued as Mormina skated off the ice, and Ashton placed a shot behind Killeen's back for the win.
Street said the fact that a call wasn't made when Mormina went down didn't hurt the Penguins as much as the penalties they took throughout the game. Norfolk was 2-for-7 on the power play while the Penguins were 1-for-6
"It was tough to get a flow," he said. "It seemed like when things were going good there was a penalty, and it screwed things up on the bench too."
With 19 games left in the season and Norfolk leading the division and the Eastern Conference by four points, the Penguins know they need to make up ground quickly. Norfolk has now won their last nine while the Penguins have dropped two in a row.
"It's definitely going to be a dogfight between us, them and Hershey, and that's why this stings even more," Street said. "One good weekend or one bad weekend and everything's flipped upside down again. This wasn't a two-point game, it was a four-point game and we need to make sure when the points are there we take them."
• Hynes said G Scott Munroe, who left Saturday's game, is day-to-day, as is Bryan Lerg, who didn't play on Sunday.
• Before Sunday's game, the Penguins signed ECHL goaltender Brad Fogal to a PTO. With Brad Thiessen in Pittsburgh and Scott Munroe battling an injury, Fogal was brought in to backup Patrick Killeen. Fogal posted a 4-4-0 record for the Cincinnati Cyclones with a 2.78 goals against average and a .901 save percentage this season.
• Killeen stopped 21 of 24 shots in his first career start.
• D Boris Valabik (injury), D Carl Sneep (injury), D Philip Samuelsson, D Cody Wild, LW Bryan Lerg, LW Steve MacIntyre and RW Keven Veilleux (injury) were scratched for the Penguins.
First Period: Scoring – None. Penalties – NOR, Picard (roughing) 11:46; WBS, Williams (roughing) 17:43.
Second Period: Scoring – 1. WBS, Ben Street 18 (Grant, Mormina) power play 12:27. 2. NOR, Mark Barberio 9 (Johnson, Segal) 17:02. Penalties – WBS, Craig (goaltender interference) 5:56; NOR, Johnson (tripping) 6:43; NOR, Labrie (interference) 9:35; NOR, Gudas (cross-checking) 11:55; WBS, Williams (hooking) 15:05; WBS, Sill (roughing) 17:02. Third Period: Scoring – 4. WBS, Alexandre Picard 4 (Craig, Gibbons) 9:50. 5. NOR, Carter Ashton 19 (Dimmen, Conacher) power play 17:56. Penalties – WBS, Picard (tripping) :29; WBS, Chupp (roughing) 10:41; WBS, Mormina (delay of game) 12:03; NOR, Labrie (delay of game) 15:08; WBS, Grant (hooking) 16:12.
Shots on goal: Norfolk – 8-7-9-24. Penguins – 11-10-8-29
Power-play Opportunities: Norfolk – 2 of 7. Penguins – 1 of 6
Goaltenders: Norfolk – Dustin Tokarski 25-11-0 (27 saves-29 shots). Penguins – Patrick Killeen 0-2-0 (21-24)
Three Stars: 1. NOR, Carter Ashton (game-winning goal) 2. WBS, Alexandre Picard (goal) 3. NOR, J.P Cote (goal)
Referee – Matt Kirk, Geoff Miller. Linesmen – Matt McNulty, Bob Fyrer