WILKES-BARRE TWP. — It was bad enough when the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins were beaten for the tying goal while trying to fend off a power play.
But when the Penguins surrendered the go-ahead goal with their own man-advantage, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s special teams really started to sputter.
Michael Bournival scored his team-leading seventh goal on a short-handed shot midway through the second period Saturday and Syracuse rattled off three unanswered goals to crunch the Penguins for a second straight night, 4-3, at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“The film doesn’t lie,” Penguins coach Clark Donatelli said. “Syracuse is a hard-working team. We found that out last night (Friday). We found it out again tonight. We’ve got to start winning those one-on-one battles.”
The flop followed a Friday night meltdown where the Penguins were taken down, 5-2, when the two teams met in Syracuse, and marked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first two-game losing streak of the young season.
The Penguins penalty units proved to be a big reason why.
With Wilkes-Barre/Scranton holding an early 2-1 lead, Penguins defenseman Frank Corrado was whistled for an interference penalty — sending Syracuse on a power play.
The Crunch quickly converted, when center Carter Vanhaeghe took a pass from Alexander Volkov by way of Mat Bodie and whistled the game-tying goal past goalie Casey DeSmith to even the score.
It got worse for the Penguins before it got better.
With 9:04 to play in the second period and the Penguins on a power play of their own, Bournival picked off an errant pass, dashed down the ice and beat DeSmith one-on-one, putting the Crunch up 3-2.
“We’ve got to be disciplined in not taking any penalties,” Donatelli said. “It disrupts the routine and guys are getting tired. On the power play, I thought we had some really good shots, they just didn’t go in. We’ve got to be disciplined.”
The Penguins finished 0-for-5 on the power play, and failed to score with an extra man during three of the game’s final four minutes. The first two came when Syracuse staved off Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s final power-play chance and the last minute ran down with the Penguins pulling DeSmith from the goal to send an extra attacker out on the ice.
Neither situation produced the tying goal.
To make matters worse, the Penguins missed a golden, short-handed opportunity of their own with just under five minutes left in the second period, when Jarrod Tinordi was stuffed one-on-one by Syracuse goalie Connor Ingram.
Shortly after that, Syracuse center Matthew Peca scored his second goal of the season to put Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a 4-2 hole.
At even strength, the Penguins were fine.
After Daniel Walcott started the scoring with a Syracuse goal 99 seconds into the night, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton followed with goals by Freddie Tiffels, who converted his first of the season off a third rebound, and Teddy Blueger less than five minutes apart to take a 2-1 lead with 12:21 to play in the first period.
“That’s a good feeling, to get the first one out of the way,” said Tiffels, who was recently recalled from Wheeling. “AS a forward, you always want to score.”
The Penguins finally scored again at even strength in the third period, using Frank Corrado’s slap shot to pull within 4-3 with 12:45 to play.
But try as they may, the Penguins never did tie it up, and wound up losing as many games in regulation on consecutive nights to Syracuse as they had dropped in their 13 previous games that didn’t go to overtime this season.
“I think we’re just going to re-group,” Tiffels said. “We shot ourselves in the foot this weekend. It was nothing they (the Crunch) did. I think we just didn’t come out and compete hard enough. The good thing is, we can fix those things ourselves and not depend on any help from the outside. It all starts with the compete (level). We have enough skill and experience on the team to get wins.
“And I’m sure we’re going to climb back into that successful type of game.”