JOHNSON, JEFFREY JUMP-START PENGUINS IN 5-2 WIN
SYRACUSE, NY – The line of Nick Johnson, Dustin Jeffrey, and Mark Letestu combined for nine points, and John Curry stopped 24 shots as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins cruised to a 5-2 win on Friday night at the War Memorial at OnCenter.
After the teams traded power play chances early in the first period, Syracuse center Tomas Kana was sent off for holding. Off of a Chris Lee bank pass, Letestu fed Johnson, who beat Crunch goaltender Dan LaCosta for his fifth goal of the season at 10:07. Almost immediately afterward, the Crunch were handed a power play on a Deryk Engelland infraction. The Penguins would keep the momentum, and use strong forechecking by Jeffrey and Joe Vitale behind the Crunch goal line to force a turnover. Vitale stole the puck from defenseman Nick Holden and got a wraparound shot away that was denied by LaCosta. The puck ended up at the right of the crease, where Jeffrey pounced on it and banged it home for the 2-0 lead. It was Jeffrey’s second shorthanded goal of the season.
The Crunch would get on the board on their second power play of the contest. Alexandre Picard made a perfect goal-line feed to captain Derek MacKenzie who was stationed in front of Curry. His snap shot from 10 feet away eluded the Penguins netminder at 15:20.
Syracuse got the equalizer at 14:18 of the second, when defenseman David Liffiton sent a slap shot into traffic. Curry reacted in anticipation of the shot, but the puck bounced right to Kana who muscled the puck into the net.
With the score tied at two, the Crunch would take the opening faceoff and create their best scoring chance of the game, which Curry denied with a sliding blocker save. The Penguins would come back in transition, with Letestu and Johnson setting up Jeffrey for his second of the game just 33 seconds into the final frame.
Jeffrey would return the favor to Johnson at the 8:15 mark, setting up his linemate with a pass from the left boards. Johnson broke behind the defense and beat LaCosta up high.
Luca Caputi completed the scoring by stripping LaCosta of the puck behind the net, and wrapping a shot in while LaCosta scrambled back into position. The goal was Caputi’s team-leading 12th of the season.
Curry’s record improved to 12-10-1, while LaCosta suffered his 10th loss in falling to 4-10-1, stopping 34 of 39 Penguins shots.
The Penguins and Crunch both finished 1-for-5 on the power play.
The Penguins return home tomorrow, December 19th for a 7:05 pm faceoff against the Toronto Marlies. The second Teddy Bear Toss night will be held between periods, done in conjunction with the Tobyhanna Army Depot. Additionally, the second annual live Christmas Charity Jersey Auction will take place after the game. Fans wishing to participate may pick up a bid number behind section 101 at the game, or behind sections 104-105 afterward.
NOTES: The Penguins lineup became a little stronger as RW Chris Conner returned for the first time since November 14th. He went scoreless and earned a plus-one rating… C Dustin Jeffrey’s three-point effort (2G, 1A) was his fifth three-point night of the season and third against the Crunch… C Mark Letestu tallied three assists for the second time this season, his first effort also coming against Syracuse… RW Nick Johnson has four goals against Syracuse in his last two games, three of them coming in the first period... Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup Champion head coach Dan Bylsma was among those in attendance.