BEARS POWER PLAY BLITZES PENGUINS
HERSHEY, Pa. – Defenseman Patrick McNeill and leading scorer Keith Aucoin each registered four points, and a 3-for-9 power play effort helped launch the Hershey Bears to a 7-2 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday night at Giant Center.
The Penguins worked two beautiful scoring chances in front of Bears netminder Braden Holtby but were unable to score in the opening three minutes of play. At 4:44, the all-important first goal went to McNeill, as he took a right-corner feed from Aucoin and wristed a shot off a Penguins defenseman and past goalie Brad Thiessen. The goal came as a delayed penalty call was forthcoming on the Penguins.
With Wade Brookbank serving a double minor for high-sticking, sniper Alexandre Giroux slapped home his 18th of the season on the second half of the power play to give the hosts a 2-0 advantage at the 11:51 mark.
The Penguins, working without leading scorer Dustin Jeffrey who sat due to illness, got things going immediately after the Giroux goal. Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson cycled the puck between the corners while Mark Letestu snuck himself open between the hash marks. Johnson’s backhand pass found Letestu, who had time to pick the upper corner behind Holtby. Letestu’s 13th of the season brought him into a tie with Luca Caputi for the team lead in goals.
The Bears would take a 4-1 lead into the dressing room as Aucoin and Kyle Wilson would score 47 seconds apart late in the first.
Giroux’s second power play goal of the night came on the Bears’ fifth man advantage, as he fired home a shot from the right circle off a fake shot from Chris Bourque late in the second.
Giroux would then take a slashing penalty early in the third, and defenseman Chris Lee would make him pay, scoring from nearly the same spot as his opponent at the 4:03 mark. Letestu and Johnson earned assists on the play to give them both a two-point night and cut the Bears’ lead to 5-2.
Just 3:48 later, Steve Pinizzotto tipped a McNeill pass behind Thiessen to give the Bears a 6-2 edge, and Wilson’s second of the night would end the scoring.
The Penguins finished 1-for-6 on the power play. Thiessen took the loss for the second straight night and fell to 1-5-0 on the season. Holtby’s 20-save effort improved his record to 12-2-1.
The Penguins will conclude their weekend road trip with a 3:00 pm matchup tomorrow, January 17th against the Springfield Falcons. The team will break for the 2010 Time Warner Cable All-Star Classic to be held in Portland, Maine on Monday and Tuesday, January 18th and 19th.