WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Something happened during Saturday's game against the Worcester Sharks that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hadn't seen in quite a while.
Passes that were hitting their mark. Shots weren't only getting to the net, but they were directed to areas that forced Sharks goaltender Harri Sateri to make several difficult saves.
And, most important of all, some of those shots went in.
After scoring just five goals in their last five games, the Penguins registered three in the first two periods then clamped down on the Sharks in the final frame en route to a 3-0 win. Brad Thiessen anchored the win with a 30-save shutout – his first since Nov. 4, 2011 – and the first for the Penguins since Nov. 21 of this year.
The win snaps a five-game losing streak and is the Penguins second in their last 13 games. They are now 15-15-2-1 and, coupled with a Hershey loss, move within one point of the Bears for third place in the East Division.
While the win earned the Penguins a much-needed two points for the standings, it also gave them something bigger.
Everyone believes in each other in this room and now we feel like we can do something, Thiessen said. We've gone through a tough stretch and we needed a complete effort like this.
It feels good and it shows everyone that if we play the right way we're going to win games.
The Penguins offense awakened against Worcester, getting goals from a few players who haven't seen the scoresheet in a while.
Benn Ferriero started things off just 40 seconds into the game when he stuffed home a rebound from a Beau Bennett wraparound attempt to make it 1-0.
The goal was Ferriero's first since Dec. 7 – 12 games ago.
Riley Holzapfel made it 2-0 with his first goal since Dec. 12. With just over three minutes of the clock in the second period, Holzapfel picked up the puck in the neutral zone and raced into the Worcester end.
Cruising into the high slot, Holzapfel waited for Bennett to skate across the middle of the ice and used the screen to laser a wrist shot into the top corner of the net.
Three minutes later, Warren Peters put home an Eric Tangradi rebound for his first goal since Dec. 19 to make it 3-0.
We kept building as far as getting into scoring areas and doing a better job of winning stick battles and puck battles, Penguins coach John Hynes said.
While the offense clicked, so did the Penguins defense. The penalty kill kept the Sharks off the boards during four power plays while Thiessen stopped all 22 shots he faced in the first two periods.
Heading into the third period with a 3-0 lead, the Penguins weren't content to sit back and play a conservative game.
They couldn't afford to, considering they had blown two three-goal leads twice during the last 11 games.
The Penguins protected the lead, thanks in part to Thiessen who made several key saves during a Worcester power play and at even-strength.
His best stop came with nine minutes remaining when he smothered a shot from Worcester's James Sheppard on a breakaway.
The penalty kill did a great job. They came up big, Hynes said. When the penalty kill is going well, your goalie is always your best penalty killer. Brad did a nice job tonight.
• Thiessen has given up only two goals on 63 shots in his last two starts.
• With Steve MacIntyre in the lineup, the Penguins are 11-3-1-1.
• Brian Strait (illness), Tom Kuhnhackl (injury), Dominik Uher, Phil Dupuis, Alex Grant, Keven Veilleux and Simon Despres were scratched.
• The Penguins continue their three-in-three stretch with a matchup tonight in Connecticut against the Whale.
First Period — Scoring – 1. WBS, Benn Ferriero 4 (Bennett, Gibbons) :40. Penalties – WOR, Tennyson (interference) 3:46; WBS, bench – served by Farnham (too many men) 6:10; WBS, Bennett (high-sticking) 15:08; WOR, Tennyson (interference) 19:58.
Second Period — Scoring – 2. WBS, Riley Holzapfel 9 (Smith) 3:43. 3. WBS, Warren Peters 5 (Tangradi, Thompson) 7:11. Penalties – WBS, Bennett (high-sticking) 9:37; WBS, Peters (roughing) 17:13; WOR, Sheppard (slashing) 17:50.
Third Period — Scoring – None. Penalties – WBS, Tangradi (delay of game) 5:46.
Shots on goal — Worcester – 11-11-8-30 Penguins – 10-8-2-20Power-play Opportunities — Worcester – 0 of 5 Penguins – 0 of 3
Goaltenders — Worcester – Harri Sateri 6-7-1 (17 saves – 20 shots) Penguins – Brad Thiessen 4-6-1 (30-30)
Starters — Worcester – G Harri Sateri, D Matt Irwin, D Denny Urban, LW John McCarthy, C Bracken Kearns, RW Yanni Gourde Penguins – G Brad Thiessen, D Joey Mormina, D Robert Bortuzzo, LW Brian Gibbons, C Benn Ferriero, RW Jayson Megna
Three Stars — 1. WBS, Brad Thiessen (30 saves, shutout) 2. WBS, Benn Ferriero (game-winning goal) 3. WBS, Riley Holzapfel (goal)
Referee — Chris Brown. Linesmen — Bob Goodman, Jud Ritter