HERSHEY — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins knew they were better than the team that got shutout in back-to-back games last weekend.
Less than four minutes into Wednesday’s game against the Hershey Bears, they proved it.
The Penguins scored twice in the first 10 minutes, Anthony Peters stopped 18 shots for his first AHL career shutout and Daniel Sprong had two assists for a 4-0 win at the Giant Center. The Penguins (25-11-3-1) are now 5-0-1-1 against the Bears and Peters has allowed just two goals in the last three games overall.
The shutout is the first in 20 career AHL games for the 27-year-old Peters, who said the achievement wasn’t his alone.
“I’m a firm believer that the shutout is a team stat. You have to have a full team effort and the team played great tonight,” he said.
Anxious to put last week’s scoring woes behind them, the Penguins got the offense going less than four minutes into the first period. Greg McKegg skated the puck up ice and dished to Zach Aston-Reese in the slot, who connected for his seventh goal of the season.
Six minutes later the Penguins gained a 2-0 lead when Daniel Sprong sent a long pass to Jarrett Burton, who took the puck deep and converted a backhand shot from a bad angle that went behind Hershey netminder Pheonix Copley.
“I’m glad to see the puck going in,” said head coach Clark Donatelli. “If we’re playing the right way, the puck is going to go into the net.”
At the other end, Peters was flawless as he staved off several breakaways and backstopped the Penguins’ penalty kill as they blanked the Bears on three consecutive power plays in the second period. On the night, the Penguins were a perfect six-for-six against the Hershey power play.
“(Peters) came up big on some breakdowns and on the penalty kill. No rebounds. Smothered it,” Donatelli said.
Hershey nearly beat Peters in the third period when he stopped a shot but the puck laid under his blocker on the line. The Bears crashed the net and pushed Peters and the puck into the net, but after a review it was ruled there was no goal.
Peters said he was pushed over the line with the puck and he was glad the officials saw it.
“It was a bang-bang play. I knew I had it under me,” he said. “I was hoping the ref saw it, and fortunately he did. Good call.”
The Penguins gained a crucial 3-0 lead midway through the third period when Thomas Di Pauli dug the puck out from behind the net and hit Christian Thomas in the slot, who sent a shot into the top corner.
Minutes later, Sprong registered his second assist when he fed a pass across the ice to Zach Trotman, who snuck into the zone trailing a rush. Trotman’s goal sealed the 4-0 win.
Sprong resumed his customary spot on a line with Gage Quinney and Garrett Wilson. He finished with two assists, three shots and a plus-2. Donatelli was happy with his effort but admitted he’d like to see Sprong shoot more. “He passed up a couple tonight. I thought he could’ve shot it a couple other times,” Donatelli said. “But I liked his game. He’s working hard and moving his feet. If he keeps playing like that he’ll get a lot of goals here.” … D Ethan Prow, D Kevin Spinozzi, RW Patrick McGrath, 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.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky