A NIGHT FOR THE NEWCOMERS
WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, PA – Wyatt Smith and Chris Conner combined for six points, and John Curry won his 58th career game as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins took the regular season opener from the Syracuse Crunch by a 4-2 score.
Boosted by an enthusiastic crowd of 7,147, the Penguins dictated the pace of play for the start of the first period, until the penalty kill would be afforded three consecutive tests. It passed with flying colors, going 3-for-3.
Jolted by those kills, the Penguins finally broke through a solid performance by Crunch netminder Kevin Lalande with 1:56 remaining in the opening frame. New Penguins defenseman Chris Lee would take a pass from Conner, pick a spot in traffic, and launch a wrist shot in the direction of Smith. The Penguins’ center tipped the puck down from waist level and past Lalande for the first Penguins goal of the 2009-10 campaign.
The teams would trade goals through the middle period. The Penguins would take a 2-0 lead courtesy of a strong play by rookies Zach Sill and Keven Veilleux. Sill worked relentlessly in the right corner to muscle his way along the goal line, then one-handed the puck toward the slot. Veilleux wasted no time and jammed the puck home for his first AHL goal 2:02 into the frame.
The Crunch would finally solve Curry at 6:53 while on the man advantage. Pascal Pelletier would tip a Brent Regner point shot home for his first of the season.
The Penguins would regain the two-goal lead at 12:57 thanks in part to Crunch defenseman Tim Filangieri breaking his stick on an attempted clear. Conner would swarm the loose puck and flip a pass to a camped-out Smith, who had an easy tap-in for his second of the game.
But the Crunch retaliated again, cutting the Penguins lead to one just 18 seconds later. Alexandre Picard had two swipes at a loose puck in a scramble at the side of the goalmouth, and found the net on the second try.
The insurance goal came at 15:04 of the third when Conner jammed away at a loose puck from behind the goal line, and slipped it under a prone Lalande.
The Crunch would pull Lalande with under a minute remaining, and would earn a 6-on-4 advantage with Penguins defenseman Jon D’Aversa whistled for hooking, but could not generate a scoring chance.
Curry stopped 26 of 28 Syracuse shots for the win, while Lalande stopped 28 of 32 in taking the loss.
The Penguins will meet the defending Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears on Friday at Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza. Faceoff is set for 7:05 pm. Tickets are available at the Wachovia Arena box office or through any Ticketmaster location.
NOTES: The Wilkes-Barre Junior Pens were introduced to the fans prior to faceoff, as they flanked the 2009-2010 Penguins around the ice; John Hynes made his assistant coaching debut with Todd Reirden; The Penguins debuted their new third jerseys for the contest.