WILKES-BARRE TWP. — It’s a storyline the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have faced multiple times this season — another regular goes up to Pittsburgh and someone else gets a shot.
On Wednesday, Jean-Sebastien Dea was recalled to Pittsburgh, and it was Gage Quinney’s turn to get a shot, taking Dea’s spot centering Zach Aston-Reese and Ryan Haggerty. The line shuffling paid off as Quinney’s goal sparked a three-goal second period and a 4-1 Penguins win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
It was the eighth straight victory for the Penguins (24-10-2-1, .689) who extended their lead atop the Atlantic Division.
The win also snapped a two-game losing streak against the rival Phantoms, and the Penguins are now 4-4 against Lehigh Valley on the season. The key behind Wednesday’s win was the line of Aston-Reese, Quinney and Haggerty, who combined for two goals and four assists. Aston-Reese had a goal and two assists for his third three-point game of the season, and Haggerty added two assists to give him team-leading 29 points in 27 games.
“I thought (Quinney) did a great job,” Aston-Reese said of his new center. “He’s really easy to play with. We all had good chemistry.”
After the Phantoms gained a 1-0 lead in the opening period, the Penguins did just about everything right in the second.
Quinney deflected a shot off a Phantoms defenseman and into the net to tie it at 1-1 in the early stages.
“I think that gave the boys some life,” Aston-Reese said. “We didn’t look back from there.”
After that, Lehigh Valley got into a bit of penalty trouble and the Penguins gained the lead. On the Penguins’ second power play of the night, Greg McKegg started the rush into the Phantoms end, drove hard to the net and left the puck on the doorstep, where Christian Thomas flipped it home.
The Penguins power play has connected in four straight games and head coach Clark Donatelli said it looks to be back on track.
“We’re trying to establish the shot and get that box moving. Right now it’s clicking,” he said.
With a 2-1 lead, the Penguins added to it three minutes later when Teddy Blueger took a lead pass from Colin Smith and tucked the puck inside the post to make it 3-1.
Aston-Reese sealed the win when Lehigh Valley head coach Scott Gordon pulled netminder Dustin Tokarski with just over five minutes left. Aston-Reese sent a long shot into the empty net for a 4-1 lead and his third point of the night.
He admitted to being a bit surprised that the Phantoms net was empty with more than five minutes to play.
“I was thinking, ‘This early?’” Aston-Reese said. “Coach always says when it’s six-on-five, it’s just like playing five-on-five. There’s no panic.”
• G Anthony Peters stopped 22 shots for his sixth straight win. “He gives us a chance to win every game. Our guys really like him and they play hard for him,” Donatelli said.
• G Michael Leighton (injury), D Jeff Taylor, D Ethan Prow, D Kevin Spinozzi, RW Patrick McGrath, LW Tom Sestito (injury), RW Tom Kostopoulos (injury), D Lukas Bengtsson (injury) were scratched for the Penguins.