WBS Pens swept by Charlotte; Kostopoulos’ career comes to an end

By Tom Venesky - [email protected]
Penguins newcomer Anthony Angello reacts to his goal against the Charlotte Checkers in the first period of Thursday’s season finale. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Penguins forward Garrett Wilson sits frustrated after not being able to jam the puck past Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on Thursday. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Penguins winger Garrett Wilson hovers over the Charlotte crease on Thursday. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Penguins center Teddy Blueger reacts to getting the puck past Charlotte goalie Alex Nedeljkovic in the third period with defenseman Roland McKeown on his back. - - Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos yells for the puck during the final game of his career on Thursday night against Charlotte at Mohegan Sun Arena. - - Fred Adams | For Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE TWP. — It’s not the way Tom Kostopoulos wanted to go out, but the Charlotte Checkers gave him no choice.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins squandered a two-goal lead and couldn’t keep pace with Charlotte’s high-speed offense en route to a 7-3 loss. The three-game sweep eliminated the Penguins from the postseason and put an abrupt end to Kostopoulos’ 19-year career.

“It’s a tough way to go out,” said Kostopoulos, who announced on April 4 that he will retire at the end of the postseason. “I knew going into this series this could be it. And going down the first two games I knew this could be it.

“It just wasn’t going to happen tonight.”

The Penguins did a good job at staving off elimination by establishing an early lead with a pair of goals in the first eight minutes. Anthony Angello put home a rebound from a Teddy Blueger shot, followed by a Zach Trotman blast from the high slot that was deflected by Adam Johnson for a 2-0 lead.

But things unraveled minutes later.

Trotman exited the game after he was shaken up along the boards, leaving the Penguins with five defensemen. The Checkers took advantage Lucas Wallmark scored from the point, and 21 seconds later former Penguin Greg McKegg skated behind two defensemen to beat Tristan Jarry in front to tie it up. It marked the second time in the series that the Penguins squandered a two-goal lead.

The Penguins entered the game without defensemen Kevin Czuczman and Jarred Tinordi, and head coach Clark Donatelli said losing Trotman was a turning point against Charlotte’s high-powered offense.

“When you’re down to five D, it’s hard. It’s tough on those guys because in the D zone (Charlotte) spreads it out and works the puck around. Our guys were getting tired.”

During an evenly-matched second period when both teams exchanged chances, the Checkers gained the lead on a miscue by the Penguins.

Charlotte forward Aleksi Saarela skated down the far side, pulling Jarry out of the crease, and dished a pass in front that Jarrett Burton tried to swipe away but inadvertently knocked into his own net.

Down 3-2, the Penguins entered the third period with 1:18 of power-play time and an opportunity to erase the goal right away.

The Penguins blanked on the power play and then put Charlotte on the man advantage for the third time in the game.

The Checkers didn’t score on the power play, but they put the game away minutes later when Clark Bishop posted at the doorstep and put home a loose puck. Less than two minutes later, Andrew Miller roofed a shot over Jarry to make it 5-2.

“A couple of breakdowns,” Donatelli said. “It’s been the same thing all series — you have to play a full 60 against that team.”

The Penguins buried themselves deeper when Kostopoulos took a penalty during a scrum after the goal, and Blueger was called for a slash giving the Checkers 45 seconds with a two-man advantage.

Things got interesting when Charlotte goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic gloved the puck and waited for a whistle but didn’t get one. With Penguins swarming, Nedeljkovic tossed the puck behind the net where the Penguins gained control and Angello scored on a shot that leaked through Nedeljkovic to make it 5-3 with six minutes to play.

But two empty net goal by the Checkers did the Penguins in, ending their postseason and a career for Kostopoulos, who skated the last 21 seconds of the game for his final shift.

“It was nice to skate out there one more time and fun to play in front of our crowd one more time,” Kostopoulos said.

Penguins newcomer Anthony Angello reacts to his goal against the Charlotte Checkers in the first period of Thursday’s season finale.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_pens_g3_2_faa.jpgPenguins newcomer Anthony Angello reacts to his goal against the Charlotte Checkers in the first period of Thursday’s season finale. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Penguins forward Garrett Wilson sits frustrated after not being able to jam the puck past Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on Thursday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_pens_g3_6_faa.jpgPenguins forward Garrett Wilson sits frustrated after not being able to jam the puck past Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on Thursday. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Penguins winger Garrett Wilson hovers over the Charlotte crease on Thursday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_pens_g3_1_faa.jpgPenguins winger Garrett Wilson hovers over the Charlotte crease on Thursday. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Penguins center Teddy Blueger reacts to getting the puck past Charlotte goalie Alex Nedeljkovic in the third period with defenseman Roland McKeown on his back.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_pens_g3_7_faa.jpgPenguins center Teddy Blueger reacts to getting the puck past Charlotte goalie Alex Nedeljkovic in the third period with defenseman Roland McKeown on his back. Fred Adams | For Times Leader

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos yells for the puck during the final game of his career on Thursday night against Charlotte at Mohegan Sun Arena.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_pens_g3_4_faa.jpgWilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos yells for the puck during the final game of his career on Thursday night against Charlotte at Mohegan Sun Arena. Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Penguins lose 7-3 and suffer a three-game sweep in the first round of the postseason

By Tom Venesky

[email protected]

Atlantic Division Semifinals

Game 3

(Charlotte wins series, 3-0)

Charlotte 7, Penguins 3

Charlotte`2`1`4 — 7

Penguins`2`0`x — 3

First Period

Scoring – 1. WBS, Anthony Angello 1 (Blueger, Almari) 4:40. 2. WBS, Adam Johnson 1 (Trotman, Blueger)7:29. 3. CHA, Lucas Wallmark 2 (Miller, Zykov) 16:41. 4. CHA, Greg McKegg 1 unassisted 17:02. Penalties – WBS, Cramarossa (boarding) 1:18; CHA, Fleury (misconduct) 18:55; WBS, Wilson (misconduct) 18:55; WBS, Angello (high-sticking) 19:06.

Second Period

Scoring – 5. CHA, Aleksi Saarela 2 unassisted 17:46. Penalties – CHA, Foegele (high-sticking) 19:17.

Third Period

Scoring – 6. CHA, Clark Bishop 2 (Foegele, Didier) 5:55. 7. CHA, Andrew Miller 1 (Zykov, Kichton) 7:36. 8. WBS, Anthony Angello 2 unassisted 13:31. 9. CHA, Andrew Poturalski 1 (McKegg, Saarela) empty net 18:26. 10. CHA, Janne Kuokkanen 1 (McKegg) empty net 18:44. Penalties – WBS, Burton (holding) 2:17; WBS, Kostopoulos (roughing) 7:36; WBS, Blueger (slashing) 8:51; WBS, Kostopoulos (holding) 14:55.

Shots on goal

Charlotte – 12-8-12-32

Penguins – 9-10-10-29

Power-play Opportunities

Charlotte – 0 of 6

Penguins – 0 of 1

Goaltenders

Charlotte – Alex Nedeljkovic 3-0 (26 saves – 29 shots)

Penguins – Tristan Jarry 0-3 (25-30)

Starters

Charlotte – G Alex Nedeljkovic, D Haydn Fleury, D Josiah Didier, LW Warren Foegele, C Patrick Brown, RW Clark Bishop

Penguins – G Tristan Jarry, D Ethan Prow, D Chris Summers, LW Christian Thomas, C Jean-Sebastien Dea, RW Tom Kostopoulos

Three Stars

1. CHA, Andrew Miller (goal, assist) 2. CHA, Valentin Zykov (two assists) 3. WBS, Anthony Angello (two goals)

Referees – Reid Anderson, Jeremy Tufts. Linesmen – Ryan Knapp, J.P. Waleski.

Attendance – 4,731

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TLTomVenesky

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TLTomVenesky