WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The Springfield Falcons tried their luck by playing a tight, defensive game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday.
By the end of the night, that approach played right into the Penguins’ hands.
In a game where both teams combined for just 45 shots, the Penguins generated enough offense for a 4-2 win. Five of the goals came in the third period after both teams battled to a defensive stalemate for the first half of the game.
“It was good defense and tight-checking. Not a lot of territory out there,” Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said. “We feed off playing defensively.”
The win was the fourth in a row for the Penguins (20-10-2-1) as they inched closer to second place in the Atlantic Division, trailing Lehigh Valley. The Penguins’ point percentage after the win is .652, while the Phantoms, who lost on Friday, are at .653.
“We’ve been playing good hockey of late. We just want to tighten up a few things, keep it going and get on a roll,” said Greg McKegg, who scored the first goal of the game.
The Penguins began to get to their game in the second period.
Casey DeSmith stopped all nine shots he faced, including a sprawling skate save to rob Anthony Greco at the corner and later he was helped by Jarred Tinordi who swept away a puck that got past him.
Tinordi also dominated in a fight after he was challenged by Ed Wittchow in response to a hit.
And then there was McKegg, who opened the scoring when he stood at the corner of the net and put home a deflected shot past Samuel Montembeault to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
At the start of the third period both teams exchanged goals with Springfield striking first on a loose puck in front of the crease.
Minutes later, the Penguins got the lead back when Christian Thomas sniped a shot from the side to make it 2-1.
The goal exchange occurred again later in the period, but this time the Penguins started things off with a tally by Haggerty. Taking a pass from Zach Aston-Reese behind the net, Haggerty positioned the puck on his stick while gliding through traffic in front before firing a shot over Montembeault.
The goal made it 3-1 and the Penguins would need it as Springfield connected just 21 seconds later to make it 3-2.
“I don’t like them coming right back and scoring,” Donatelli said. “We needed a better shift than that.”
The Penguins held on to the one-goal lead and sealed the win when Adam Johnson scored into the empty net with seconds left.
D Jeff Taylor, D Kevin Spinozzi, F Cody Wydo, F Gage Quinney (injury), F Reid Gardiner, F Tom Sestito (injury), F Tom Kostopoulos (injury), D Lukas Bengtsson (injury), F Freddie Tiffels and G Michael Leighton (injury) were scratched for the Penguins. … The win capped off a unique week for DeSmith, who sat out Wednesday’s game and Thursday’s practice as a precaution while Pittsburgh waited to see if Tristan Jarry would be healthy enough to play. DeSmith’s last victory was on Dec. 13, also against Springfield, a span of six games. … The Penguins host Belleville &:05 p.m. Saturday.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky