CURRY, MINARD RETURN TO LEAD PENS TO WIN
WILKES-BARRE, PA – Chris Minard and John Curry both enjoyed lengthy stays with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the past month, even if they didn’t see the kind of playing time they were used to in the American Hockey League.
When they returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for Saturday night’s game against the Portland Pirates, they both made sure to make the most of their ice time.
Minard potted two goals and Curry made 23 saves as the Penguins posted a 5-1 win against the Pirates, who entered the game leading the Atlantic Division. The victory was the Pens’ third in a row, and moved them into sole possession of third place in the East Division with a record of 16-10-1-1.
Curry was making his second start in three days, after tending the cage during a 9-2 Pittsburgh romp against the New York Islanders on Thursday. And once again, he got plenty of offensive help as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored three times in the first eight minutes.
“I’ll take five any night,” said Curry. “Goal support is a goalie’s best friend, and it happened again tonight in the first period. It speaks a lot to our team the way we keep going.”
The chief source for that support was Minard, who regained the AHL goal lead by recording his 18th and 19th tallies of the year.
“The first shift, out there I was kind of like, ‘Geez, this feels a little slower,’” he said. “Up [in the NHL] you gotta go 100 miles an hour all the time. Everyone’s in the right position, everyone’s making the right plays. Down here it’s a little sloppier. But everyone’s trying to get better.”
Minard took a nice feed from Jean-Michel Daoust four minutes into the game to open the scoring before Danny Richmond found the back of the net with a shot through traffic 1:40 later. The goal was Richmond’s first of the season, and proved to be the game winner.
Daoust picked up his second point of the period with his third goal of the year, beating Jhonas Enroth from the left circle at the 7:30 mark.
Portland had several chances to trim the lead in the second period, most notably when they received a pair of power plays at 10:04 and 13:10. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton continued to shine on the penalty kill though, shutting down the opposition on both attempt and all four chances on the night. That gave the Pens 21 kills in their past 22 times shorthanded dating back to December 3.
“They got some opportunities, but a lot of them from the outside,” said Curry. “Our guys took away their primary option…it was the turning point in the game.”
The home squad then capitalized on a power play of their own, as Minard picked up a Janne Pesonen rebound on the left side of the Portland net and put home his second of the night with 27 seconds left in the middle period.
The Pens wasted no time in making it 5-0, as Paul Bissonnette tipped home his second goal of the season off a Ben Lovejoy point shot 12 seconds later to put the game out of reach.
Mathieu Darche broke up Curry’s shutout attempt less than a minute into the third period, but Portland failed to convert from there on out.
The Penguins will finish up their three-in-three Sunday afternoon at the Spectrum against the Philadelphia Phantoms at 5:00pm.
NOTES: Bissonnette now has points in three consecutive games. He had never recorded points in back-to-back AHL games prior to this week.