WILKES-BARRE TWP. – During their first two meetings against the St. John's IceCaps, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were victorious in both contests thanks to a total of four shorthanded goals.
On Tuesday when the IceCaps made their first trip to Wilkes-Barre, the roles were reversed.
St. John's scored three goals on their first three shots and had two shorthanded tallies to beat the Penguins, 5-2.
"There's no explanation for it," said Zach Sill, regarding the six shorthanded goals that have resulted in the three meetings against the two teams. "If we're going to win these games, we have to capitalize on our special teams and we can't afford to give up shorthanded goals.
The loss drops the Penguins 33-19-2-5 and keeps them in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of Hershey. The Penguins have lost three out of their last five games and are now 12-13-2-2 at home.
Despite equaling St. John's in scoring chances and outshooting them 11-4 in the first period, the IceCaps built a 3-0 lead by connecting on their first three shots of the game. John Albert scored a shorthanded tally to put St. John's on the board at 4:48, followed by a power play sequence that saw both Matt Rust and Zach Sill hobbled after blocking shots before Carl Klingberg connected to give the IceCaps a 2-0 lead.
"I didn't know what the heck was going on. It was mayhem," Sill said of the power play sequence. "The first shot hit Rust, went back to their guy and he fed it over to (Paul) Postma for a one-timer and it hit me. That was a pretty good game plan by them."
Former Penguin Jason DeSantis scored with a shot from the high point less than a minute later to put the Penguins down 3-0 and bring an early end for Scott Munroe in goal, who failed to stop all three shots he faced. Munroe was replaced by Patrick Killeen.
"I'm sure he'd like one or two of those back," said head coach John Hynes. "(Munroe) can be better and he will be better."
With 30 seconds left in the period, Simon Despres scored on a long shot from the top of the slot to give the Penguins hope heading into the second down 3-1.
The Penguins cut the lead to one in the second period thanks to a Brian Gibbons goal. With less than two minutes to play, Gibbons split the St. John's defense in the slot and broke in on IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale, roofing a shot over his glove to make it 3-2.
"After we made it 3-1 that gave us some life coming into the room. We had a good second period and made it 3-2 going into the third and gave ourselves a chance to win it," Gibbons said.
Killeen stabilized things in net, stopping all 10 shots he faced in the period to prevent the IceCaps from extending their lead, but things changed for the worse in the third period when the IceCaps scored their second shorthanded goal in the opening minutes to make it 4-2.
St. John's connected again to make it 5-2 and put the game out of reach.
"It was a missed opportunity," said Penguins' captain Ryan Craig of the 5-2 loss. "We had a mixed bag of efforts and execution tonight, and you're not going to win many hockey games like that."
• D Philip Samuelsson, D Cody Wild, LW Bryan Lerg (injury) and LW Steve MacIntyre were scratched for the Penguins.
• The Penguins paid a price in the second period when Carl Sneep and Paul Thompson both left the game after being bloodied by high sticks. Thompson returned later in the second period and Sneep came back for the third.
First period: Scoring – 1. STJ, John Albert 6 (Murray, Pasquale) shorthanded 4:48. 2. STJ, Carl Klingberg 15 (Postma, Machacek) power play 12:38. 3. STJ, Jason DeSantis 10 (Macenauer, Sawada) 13:26. 4. WBS, Simon Despres 4 (Walker, Sneep) 19:28. Penalties – WBS, Grant (roughing) 2:30; STJ, Klingberg (interference) 3:40; WBS, DeFazio (roughing) 11:58; STJ, Ramsey (roughing) 13:26.
Second period: Scoring – 5. WBS, Brian Gibbons 10 (Petersen, Mormina) 18:18. Penalties – WBS, bench – served by Thompson (too many men) 5:08; STJ, Maxwell (hooking) 6:47; STJ, Festerling (high-sticking) 15:33; STJ, Festerling (roughing) 18:44.
Third period: Scoring – 6. STJ, Arturs Kilda 5 unassisted, shorthanded 2:47. 7. Raymond Sawada 7 (Klingberg, Maxwell) 5:46. Penalties – STJ, bench (too many men) 2:20; STJ, Cormier (roughing) 17:53; WBS, Bortuzzo (roughing) 17:53.
Shots on goal: St. John's – 4-10-8-22, Penguins – 11-10-9-30; Power-play Opportunities: St. John's – 1 of 3, Penguins – 0 of 6; Goaltenders: St. John's – Eddie Pasquale – 17-7-0 (28 saves - 30 shots), Penguins – Scott Munroe – 13-5-3 (0-3); Patrick Killeen – 13:26 of the first period (17-19); Starters: St. John's – G Eddie Pasquale, D Brett Festerling, D Paul Postma, LW Maxime Macenauer, C Garth Murray, RW Raymond Sawada; Penguins – G Scott Munroe, D Joey Mormina, D Alex Grant, LW Jason Williams, C Cal O'Reilly, RW Colin McDonald
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced their Clear Day roster on Tuesday. According to AHL by-laws, only those players listed on the Clear Day roster are eligible to compete in the playoffs.
The Penguins' Clear Day includes:
GOALTENDERS: Scott Munroe and Brad Thiessen
DEFENSEMEN: Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Alex Grant, Joey Mormina, Alexandre Picard, Carl Sneep and Brian Strait
FORWARDS: Ryan Craig, Brandon DeFazio, Brian Gibbons, Bryan Lerg, Colin McDonald, Cal O'Reilly, Nick Petersen, Zach Sill, Ben Street, Eric Tangradi, Paul Thompson, Geoff Walker and Jason Williams
IN RESIDENCE: Brad Fogal (G), Patrick Killeen (G), Steve MacIntyre (F), Matt Rust (F), Philip Samuelsson (D) and Cody Wild (D)