CAPTAIN CRAIG HELPS PENGUINS KING CHECKERS
WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Ryan Craig, Dustin Jeffrey and Tim Wallace each scored twice and John Curry stopped 34 shots to help the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 6-4 victory over the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The two teams, as expected, each came out with speed and the Penguins earned two early scoring chances before getting the first power play of the game. The Checkers’ fifth-ranked penalty kill stood tall and kept the hosts off the board before earning a man advantage of their own. Geoff Walker was first called for a tripping penalty, which was then wiped out by a Riley Nash tripping infraction. Brett Sterling was then sent to the box for roughing, which gave Charlotte a four-on-three power play. The Penguins would be the team to score as Jeffrey, reassigned by Pittsburgh earlier in the day, was given four chances at a loose puck in front of Checkers starter Justin Pogge. On the fourth chop, Jeffrey slid the puck under Pogge’s pads for a 1-0 lead at 6:44.
After the teams got back to full strength, Joe Vitale fired a shot on a line rush from the left circle the Pogge kicked out. But Craig pounced on the loose puck and lifted a backhand shot underneath the crossbar at 7:20 for a 2-0 edge.
The Checkers got on the board on a two-man advantage when Brett Carson’s slap shot from the slot beat Curry to the blocker side at 9:50.
But the Penguins regained their two-goal lead at 13:38 when Jeffrey got in front of a Joey Mormina point shot and tipped the puck behind Pogge. Wallace’s 14th of the season made it 4-1, ending the night for Pogge and bringing Mike Murphy on in relief.
Charlotte added a late first-period goal when Oskar Osala lifted a shot over Curry seven seconds after an Eric Tangradi penalty expired to pull within two.
The Checkers evened the game with Riley Nash’s 10th goal of the season at 13:25 of the second period, and a breakaway goal by leading scorer Jerome Samson at 16:39.
With the score tied at 4-4 in the third, a slashing penalty on Charlotte’s Jon Matsumoto gave the Penguins another chance on the power play. Corey Potter started things by firing a hard pass to Nick Johnson, who tried to chip a shot toward the goal. The puck bounced to Murphy’s right and landed on the tape of Craig, who deposited a shot high into the goal for a 5-4 lead at 2:41.
Finally with 5:27 left, Tim Wallace got himself loose in the slot, took a feed from Robert Bortuzzo, and fired a wrist shot that deflected off of Checkers defender Zack FitzGerald and over Murphy to round out the scoring.
Curry stopped 34 shots to improve to 17-7-0. Murphy was tagged with the loss, making 25 saves on 27 shots in 42:28 of relief. Pogge earned no decision, allowing four goals on 14 shots in 16:11 of work.
The Penguins and Checkers each finished 1-for-6 on the power play.
With the win, the Penguins reach 70 points as the team raises its record to 35-11-0-0 on the season. The team also became the first to reach 20 wins on home ice, improving to 20-6-0-0 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Penguins will be on the road to conclude the pre-All-Star Break portion of the schedule. The team will take on the Albany Devils on Friday, January 28 at 7:00 pm, and the Binghamton Senators on Saturday, January 29 at 7:05 pm.
The Penguins will play the next home game on Friday, February 4 at 7:05 pm as the Manitoba Moose come to town for the first of two visits. Great seats remain, and tickets may be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, through any Ticketmaster outlet, online at ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
10-game flex books, 12-game partial plans and group tickets are also available by calling the Penguins’ offices at (570) 208-PENS.
NOTES: The Penguins scratched F Ryan Schnell and D Carl Sneep, while RW Jesse Boulerice served the last game of a 10-game suspension… C Dustin Jeffrey added to his franchise record for shorthanded goals in scoring the 10th of his career…Jeffrey’s shorthanded goal also broke the Penguins franchise record for most shorthanded goals in a season (5), held by Billy Tibbetts in 2001-02…G John Curry pulled into a tie for second place among goaltenders with his 17th win of the season. The win was also Curry’s 97th of his Penguins career… The Penguins and Checkers combined for 24 goals and 140 shots on goal in the two games this week… The victory was the first on home ice for either team in the season series to date, as the Checkers finished 0-3-0-1 in North Carolina and the Penguins improved to 1-1-0-0 in Wilkes-Barre.