WILKES-BARRE TWP. — This is the new reality for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Their steady, reliable goalies are gone, called up to cover the post for injuries in Pittsburgh.
So they are left to depend on some up-and-down play from guys who are just getting a taste of blocking shots in the AHL.
A prime example came smack in the midst of a flurry of Rochester goals during a shaky second period for the Penguins.
Anthony Peters, making his first start of the season for the Pens, left a rebound laying at his feet — but uncovered — while fumbling a couple attempts at stabbing the puck. After about five seconds, and three tries by Peters to smother the puck with his pads or his stick, Rochester’s Garret Ross finally popped it over the shoulder of Peters and into the back of the cage.
It was all part of a scrambling second period where Rochester rattled off four unanswered goals to claim a 5-2 victory at Mohegan Sun Arena and send the Penguins to their third loss in four games.
And while Peters played well enough to impress his head coach by stopping 32 of 36 shots (Rochester’s final goal was an empty-netter), the guys in front of him didn’t generate the same praise.
“I liked Petey all night,” Penguins coach Clark Donatelli said. “That’s who I liked. I thought our goalie battled and competed.”
His team? Not so much.
“We didn’t do a good job,” Donatelli said. “Just compete (in) one-on-one battles all over. Our guys have to learn how to change the momentum. I understand you’re going to have times when you don’t play well. We can’t go on for long stretches like that and not change momentum.”
The main thing that changed over the past week was the goalie situation in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with two new guys making their Penguins debuts between the pipes in as many nights.
And although Peters allowed as many goals as Colin Stevens, who made his AHL debut in goal Friday for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a 5-4 win over Milwaukee on Friday, the latest results were a bit topsy-turvy.
Stevens walked out with a victory, when Garrett Wilson returned from mourning the death of his mother and converted his first AHL hat trick Friday and Jean-Sebastien Dea beat Milwaukee with a goal in overtime.
Peters didn’t have the luxury of a hat trick on his side.
He did have an early lead, thanks to Teddy Blueger’s fourth goal of the season for the Penguins 3:30 into the second period, which was originally credited to defenseman Andrey Pedan.
But that stalled quickly with the team’s promoted bear toss, a fan favorite which drew nearly 7,000 spectators, who tossed stuffed bears on the ice.
It forced a long delay for the cleanup, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s energy evaporated.
“Yeah, but it is what it is,” Donatelli said. “They (the Amerks) had to sit around, too.”
Turns out, the Americans weren’t sitting on their sticks.
Rochester began scoring in rapid-fire fashion, pummeling the Penguins and Peters in a 19-shot second period.
Eric Cornel tied it. Evan Rodrigues scored 70 seconds later, then scored again during a 5-on-3 with Wilson off the ice for roughing and Pedan serving a cross-checking penalty.
And in between, there was that deflating goal by Ross, which turned a tight 2-1 battle into breathing room for the Americans with a 3-1 lead with the puck meandering at the goal mouth.
But the inability of the Penguins to turn away Rochester attackers annoyed Donatelli more than the unprotected puck.
“It was live, and our guys go away from it,” Donatelli said. “We didn’t get one like that.”
Then again, maybe the Pens are feeling some pressure while playing with one new face in goal after another.
“Real bad second period. We hung Petey out to dry,” Donatelli said. “But I thought he competed very well.”
More experienced goalies like Casey DeSmith, who was promoted to help Tristan Jarry replace the injured Matt Murray in goal for parent Pittsburgh just this past week, would have dropped a glove on the puck — if not a body — with traffic circling in the crease.
But Peters is primarily an OHL and ECHL veteran, having played just seven AHL games with, ironically, Rochester in 2014-15 and one more with Charlotte in 2015-16.
Blueger added his second goal of the game in the third period for the Penguins with C.J. Smith closing out the scoring for Rochester with an empty-netter.