CLEAN SLATE IN THE UPSTATE
SYRACUSE, NY. – Adam Berkhoel made 25 saves in his first appearance of the season, Nick Johnson returned to the lineup and chipped in two goals and an assist, and the Penguins’ offense put forth its highest output en route to a 6-0 whitewash of the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday night at the War Memorial at OnCenter.
Johnson, sidelined since October 24th with an ankle injury, showed what the rest did for him by scoring twice within a span of 1:18 in the first period. He completed a give-and-go with Mark Letestu at 6:11 into a virtually empty net, then one-timed a Letestu feed from the left corner past Crunch starting netminder Kevin Lalande for the 2-0 lead.
On their first power play of the game, the Penguins would convert as Robert Bortuzzo wristed a center-point shot through traffic, off the stick of Eric Tangradi and into the cage at 9:47, marking a short night for Kevin Lalande.
Dan LaCosta came on and didn’t fare much better. Chris Lee entered the right wing circle and fired a snap shot off of LaCosta’s blocker into the net at 12:21 on the Penguins’ second man advantage, and Dustin Jeffrey converted a horrible Syracuse turnover off a feed from Johnson at 14:10 to drive up the lead to 5-0.
Berkhoel, who faced just 3 shots in the opening period, only saw six in the middle frame but had to be much sharper as the Crunch attempted several deflections. His highlight save was a sprawling stop with the goal stick to deny Bates Battaglia to the right of his crease early in the second.
A penalty taken by Daniel Tkaczuk late in the second resulted in a carry-over power play for the Penguins early in the third, and captain Wyatt Smith was able to tip home a feed from Lee for a 6-0 advantage.
It was all Berkhoel from there, as the Crunch outshot the Penguins 16-4 in the final period but could not convert.
The Penguins equaled their season-best 3-for-5 power play statistic, and went a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill. Berkhoel earned the fifth shutout of his Penguins career, while Kevin Lalande was tagged with the loss and fell to 6-6-1. The Penguins improved to 3-1-0-0 against the Crunch in the eight-game season series.
The Penguins return home on Friday night for a 7:05 PM battle with the Binghamton Senators. The first 5,000 fans through the gates will receive a Tux snow globe courtesy of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Friday night will also be the first of two Teddy Bear Tosses, conducted in conjunction with the Tobyhanna Army Depot.
NOTES: The win snapped the Penguins’ five-game road losing streak… The Penguins have outscored the Crunch 14-5 over their three wins… The Penguins improved their record on Wednesdays to 3-0-0-0... Six different Penguins (Nick Johnson, Mark Letestu, Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Lee, Eric Tangradi, and Dustin Jeffrey) all had a multiple-point night.