WILKES-BARRE TWP. – The numbers aren't good.
Following Monday's 2-1 loss to the first place Syracuse Crunch, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are now 1-7-1-1 in their last 10 games. They've only managed four goals in the last four games and, worst of all, the Penguins are now 5-12-1 against East Division teams this season. Their record of 14-14-2-1 has them hovering two points above last place.
Monday's loss made other numbers even more dreadful. The power play – thanks to a Trevor Smith tally with seconds left, has now converted just three times in its last 49 opportunities over the last 10 games, and eight of the last nine losses have come to East Division rivals.
After going with Jeff Zatkoff in net for the last five games, head coach John Hynes switched to Brad Thiessen, who allowed six goals in his only start against the Crunch this season.
On Monday, Thiessen fared better and showed no signs of rust despite making his first start since Dec. 15. He stopped 32 of 34 shots on the night, including 13 Syracuse shots in the first period. Thiessen came up with some big saves in the second period, including a glove save on J.T. Wyman in front and shutting down a slam dunk play from Crunch sniper Brett Connolly at the corner.
But Syracuse's top-ranked offense eventually broke through when Richard Panik picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, raced in on Thiessen and placed a shot stick-side for a 1-0 lead at 16:57.
The return of leading scorer Beau Bennett to the lineup seemed like the recipe the Penguins needed to start scoring, and they came close on a few occasions. The best chance was from Bennett in the second period when he skated into the open slot and wristed a shot on net that Syracuse goaltender Dustin Tokarski smothered.
The Penguins' other offensive weapons, however, generated little during the first two periods. Jayson Megna and Phil Dupuis were held without a shot during the first two periods, while Smith, Riley Holzapfel and Eric Tangradi managed just one shot each.
Dupuis hasn't scored since Oct. 21, Tangradi last connected on Dec. 7 while Holzapfel's last goal occurred on Dec. 12 – nine games ago.
While the Penguins's offense sputtered, the Crunch picked up steam, aided by a Brian Gibbons hooking penalty that carried over into the start of the third.
It took the Crunch only 33 seconds to connect on the man advantage, putting the Penguins down 2-0 with more than 19 minutes to play. Smith's power play goal with one second left made it 2-1, but it was far too late for a comeback.
The Crunch outshot the Penguins 12-5 in the period and 34-19 on the night, sending them to their fourth straight loss. The Penguins next chance to snap the streak comes Friday when they travel to Binghamton.
-D Dylan Reese, RW Tom Kuhnhackl (injury), D Alex Grant, RW Benn Ferriero, LW Bobby Farnham, LW Steve MacIntyre and RW Keven Veilleux (injury) were scratched for the Penguins.
First Period – Scoring – None. Penalties – SYR, Killorn (roughing) 5:40; WBS, Samuelsson (roughing) 5:40; WBS, Bortuzzo (elbowing) 8:57; SYR, Korobov (roughing) 13:29; WBS, Gibbons (hooking) 17:36.
Second Period – Scoring – 1. SYR, Richard Panik 14 (Connolly) 16:53. Penalties – WBS, Bortuzzo (slashing) :38; SYR, Devos (hooking) 4:43; WBS, Bennett (slashing) 5:17; SYR, Panik (interference) 10:23; WBS, Gibbons (hooking) 20:00.Third Period – Scoring – SYR, Richard Panik 15 (Johnson, Palat) power play :33. WBS, Trevor Smith (11 (Dumoulin) power play 19:59. Penalties – SYR, Palat (roughing) 8:01; WBS, Peters (delay of game) 8:01; SYR, Taormina (high-sticking) 9:23; WBS, Peters (cross-checking) 13:43; SYR, Johnson (tripping) 19:30.
Shots on goal – Syracuse– 13-9-12-34; Penguins – 6-8-5-19Power-play Opportunities – Syracuse– 1 of 6; Penguins – 1 of 5Goaltenders – Syracuse– Dustin Tokarski 13-5-3 (18 saves – 19 shots); Penguins – Brad Thiessen 3-6-1 (32-34)
Starters – Syracuse – G Dustin Tokarski, D Mark Barberio, D Evan Oberg, LW Ondrej Palat, C Tyler Johnson, RW Richard Panik
Penguins – G Brad Thiessen, D Joey Mormina, D Simon Despres, LW Jayson Megna, C Trevor Smith, RW Brian Gibbons
Three Stars – 1. SYR, Richard Panik (two goals) 2. SYR, Dustin Tokarski (18 saves, one goal allowed) 3. SYR, Brett Connolly (assist)
Referee – Jamie Koharski, Geoff Miller. Linesmen – Scott Adams, Luke Murray.
Attendance – 4,533