WILKES-BARRE TWP. — With a snail’s-pace approach and a slick move, Wayne Simpson found a way to slide the only goal of a shootout into the net.
It meant a victory for the rival Hershey Bears and the first loss of the young season for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goalie Casey DeSmith.
“Shootouts are tough,” DeSmith shrugged. “Goalie can’t always win.”
Apparently, neither can the Penguins.
Their six-game winning streak came to a sudden end Sunday when Simpson faked left and and shot right to lift Hershey to a 3-2 shootout victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in an entertaining battle of wills at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“Yeah, he had some nice dekes in there,” DeSmith said. “He came in pretty slow — it’s pretty challenging when players do that. I just bit a little too much and couldn’t get the plant in there to get back.”
Still, the Penguins planted another point in their record, thanks in large part to some stellar play from DeSmith. He stopped 29 shots and helped the Penguins fend off six power play opportunities by the Bears — who took a 2-1 lead in the second period when Travis Boyd converted the one penalty WBS couldn’t kill.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined,” Penguins coach Clark Donatelli said. “We took seven penalties — just too many. Three in the (first) period there, and it’s just tough getting into a rhythm. We’ve got to be more disciplined in that department.”
That the Penguins even forced the shootout was a credit to their goaltending department.
DeSmith made a miraculous, diving save to snatch away a prime attempt by Hershey sniper Chris Bourque with 2:18 to play in overtime, then turned away a tricky backhander from Bears center Jeremy Langlois just over a minute later.
“They got some shots from in front,” DeSmith, now 4-0-1, said. “Fortunately, I got over just in time on Bourque’s. On the next one, I think I got a stick on that one.”
The Penguins came out planning to stick it to Hershey, as Daniel Sprong needed just 78 seconds to rifle the game’s first goal into the next for a quick 1-0 lead.
But that’s all Bears goalie Pheonix Copley allowed for awhile, and when Simpson scored with 2:09 remaining in the first period and Travis Boyd scored midway through the second, Hershey had a 2-1 lead.
The Penguins evened things up, though, when Zach Aston-Reese took a feed from Colin Smith by way of Chris Summers and tucked a wrap-around just inside the left post for his first goal of the season to make it 2-2.
“Feels pretty good,” Aston-Reese said. “We’ve been working on that a ton in practice, where guys were taking it in down low and pushing it. We call it ‘The Pit.’ It’s all the forwards and the defensemen jumping in as of late. Those are the kind of goals I’ve got to score. We definitely got some momentum as a team after that.”
It didn’t carry the Penguins to a seventh straight victory, but it did carry them to overtime, then a shootout and a point for forcing the extra sessions.
“I think just the take-away is how good we are when we play a full 60 minutes,” Aston-Reese said. “We only showed up for the third period and still got a point.”