PENGUINS FALL SHORT IN BATTLE OF OFFENSE
WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Mark Letestu’s first career Penguins hat trick was spoiled by a four-point night from Keith Aucoin as the Hershey Bears outlasted the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins by an 8-6 final on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
The Penguins would force the Bears’ Kyle Wilson into a defensive zone turnover just 45 seconds into the game. Eric Tangradi bumped Wilson off the puck, and Tim Wallace was alone between the hash marks to wrist home his 11th of the season past Hershey’s Braden Holtby for the 1-0 lead. But the Bears got the puck back the other way just 19 seconds later, as Aucoin fed Alexandre Giroux for a one-timer through the pads of John Curry to knot the score.
On the Penguins’ first power play of the game, a hard point shot into traffic by Chris Lee would be collected by Ryan Bayda. The right winger then dropped the rebound behind him to Letestu, who sent a wrist shot past a screened Holtby and gave the Penguins the 2-1 advantage.
Hershey’s Oskar Osala would then complete a nice passing play between Mathieu Perreault and Chris Bourque at 18:37 to even the score, and the Bears would add two more from Boyd Kane and Giroux 48 seconds apart to give the Bears a 4-2 lead at the end of the first period.
Perrault and John Carlson would extend Hershey’s lead to 6-2 at the 3:02 mark of the second, before Letestu completed his hat trick by scoring twice at 3:31 and 4:42. His second goal banked though Holtby’s pads, and his third came on a behind-the-back pass from linemate Nick Johnson. Chris Conner, who helped on both goals, and Johnson were both reassigned by Pittsburgh earlier in the day.
Curry’s night would be over at 9:09 of the second after Patrick McNeill sent a wrist shot off Curry’s arm and into the net for the 7-4 lead. Brad Thiessen would come on in relief, and stop both shots he faced.
Wallace would net his second of the night at 10:36 of the third, slapping the puck from the right circle through the legs of Holtby. Luca Caputi then deflected a Letestu wrist shot behind Holtby at 17:17, bringing the Penguins back within one and igniting the home crowd. But with the Penguins on a late power play and with Thiessen trying to get to the bench for an extra attacker, the hosts had a dump-in blocked by Kane. The winger carried the puck in alone on Thiessen who rushed to get back, and went upstairs with a backhander to close out the scoring.
Curry took the loss, stopping 13 of 20 shots, and fell to 16-14-1. Holtby improved to 16-2-0, saving 26 of 32.
The Penguins welcome the Manitoba Moose for a pair of games beginning tomorrow, January 29th at 7:05 pm and Sunday, January 30th at 3:05 pm. The first 5,000 fans through the gates tomorrow will receive a McCarthy Tire/Bridgestone All-Star Poster. It is also the annual Hockey n’ Heels night, where women can enjoy an afternoon of hockey lessons, club lounge mixer with food and beverages, an equipment demonstration, and a red zone game ticket all for just $30. A portion of the proceeds will go to support the Domestic Violence Service Center.
NOTES: The Penguins saw their record fall to 21-22-1-1, and fell below the .500 mark for the first time since October 10th… The eight goals allowed was a season high, and tied a franchise record for most goals against in a game, last recorded by Hershey on October 8, 2008… RW Chris Conner extended his point streak to four games with two assists. Conner now has ten points (4+6) in that span… The Penguins have allowed a power play goal in eight consecutive games.