NORFOLK, Va. – Riding a defensive high for 10 games now, the Penguins fell off the horse Friday at Scope Arena.
Third-period goals by Josh Brittain, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Jay Rosehill broke a 1-1 tie and gave Norfolk a 4-1 win against a Penguin team that had given up only 11 goals in its past 10 games – nine of them wins.
The wheels came off when Norfolk's Devante Smith-Pelly took a loose puck in the neutral zone and centered it to Brittain, who fired it past Penguin goalie Brad Thiessen to break a 1-1 tie only 3:02 into the period.
Still, the Penguins were facing a team that averages only 2.41 goals per game, 26th in the AHL.
Norfolk passed that just 3:05 later, when Rosehill took a loose puck and sent it to Letourneau-Leblond, whose spinning shot from between the circles eluded Thiessen for a 3-1 lead.
That spelled serious problems for the Penguins. As well as they have played defensively, they have not lit up any scoreboards in their 9-1 streak, scoring only 26 goals along the way.
Their plight became more dire when Letourneau-Leblond pushed Alex Grant off the puck on the end wall, knocking it loose to Norfolk's Chris Wagner, who sent it to Rosehill.
His shot earned him his second goal of Friday's game and only his fourth of the season.
Into the third period, things seemed in order for the Penguins, who play Norfolk again tonight in Scope. They meet again next week at home.
For two periods, Thiessen, who has tormented Norfolk over much of his career, kept the Admirals at bay after their first goal, waiting for the cavalry to come.
It showed up in the second period, just after a power play in which Riley Holzafel rang a shot off a goalpost. Chad Kolarik gathered the rebound and sent it to Beau Bennett, back on the ice after an injury-induced absence.
Just after the power play ended, Bennett fired with teammate Trevor Smith in front of Norfolk goalie Jeff Deslauriers, who used to make his living in the Penguins' net.
Deslauriers was equal to Bennett's shot, and Admiral teammate Peter Holland cleared the puck to the corner, where a Scope Arena stancion intercepted it and sent it back at a weird angle to a spot just in front of the net.
There Warren Peters stood alone, taking the carom and shooting it past Deslauriers, whose respite after the power play flurry left him standing unaware.
Peters' shot tied things at 1.
To that point, a terrific individual play by Norfolk's Rosehill had withstood several Penguin tests.
On the forecheck, Rosehill disrupted two Penguin tries at clearing the puck, and the disc went out to Norfolk's Letourneau-Leblond. At an extreme angle, he fired goalward, where Rosehill was parked directly in front of Thiessen.
Rosehill deflected the puck through his own legs and those of Thiessen for a 1-0 lead 7:46 into the game.