PENGUINS FIGHT OFF PHANTOMS IN MARCH FINALE
WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Dustin Jeffrey and Steve Wagner scored eight seconds apart in the opening period, and Brad Thiessen turned aside 31 shots to help the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Adirondack Phantoms on Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Ben Lovejoy and Ben Holmstrom started the fireworks on the night with a scrap behind Thiessen’s net at 13:01 of the opening period. After Thiessen denied two scoring chances, Lovejoy took exception to a post-whistle jab. Later, the Penguins would get the first power play of the game when Joonas Lehtivuori accidentally caught Mark Letestu with a high stick, trying to prevent Letestu from tipping in a Dustin Jeffrey feed from the right corner. On the ensuing power play, captain Wyatt Smith’s shot from the right boards deflected off the skate of former Penguins defenseman Joey Mormina right to Jeffrey at the right post. The Penguins center had an easy slam-dunk past goaltender Jeremy Duchesne for his 22nd goal of the season, and team-leading 69th point. Chris Conner earned the secondary helper.
On the center-ice faceoff that followed, Letestu won a draw to Lovejoy, who in turn slid a pass to his left to Steve Wagner. The newest Penguins blueliner lobbed a shot from the center red line at Duchesne, who tried to make a basket-catch. The puck emerged behind him in the goal, and the Penguins had a 2-0 lead which they took into the locker room after the first period.
The Phantoms would get their first power play of the game just 1:17 into the second period when Smith was whistled for cross-checking, and like the Penguins would capitalize. Phantoms leading scorer Jon Matsumoto buried a shot from the right circle behind Thiessen off a feed from Patrick Maroon for his 28th goal of the season. Letestu would later carry the puck down the left wing and have a shot blocked right back to him. From the goal line, Letestu banked a mid-air backhander off the right pad of Duchesne and in, for his 21st goal of the year. The goal would mark the end of the night for Duchesne, as well as the end of the night for Wade Brookbank, who was handed a game misconduct for not having his jersey properly tied down in a scrap with Adirondack’s Garrett Klotz. Michael-Lee Teslak came on in relief and turned aside all seven shots he faced before the second intermission, and got help from captain Jared Ross, who finished an unassisted shorthanded breakaway at 16:02 to bring the Phantoms back within one.
Both goaltenders were perfect in the third, with the Penguins outshooting Adirondack 13-3.
Thiessen evened his record at 12-12-1 with the win, while Duchesne was tagged with the loss and fell to 1-3-0, making 13 saves on 16 shots. Teslak had no decision but stopped all 20 shots he faced. The Penguins and Phantoms both finished the night 1-for-4 on the power play.
With five games remaining, the third-place Penguins now hold a five-point edge on the idle Norfolk Admirals, who will play at Albany on Friday and at Hershey on Sunday. The Penguins trail the River Rats by seven points with one game in hand, and one game remaining between the clubs.
The Penguins will now hit the road for two important division games beginning this Friday, April 2nd. The Binghamton Senators welcome the Penguins to Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena for a 7:05 pm faceoff. After the tenth and final meeting between the Penguins and Norfolk Admirals at Scope Arena on Wednesday at 7:15 pm, the team returns home for their annual Fan Appreciation Night, presented by PPL Electric Utilities. All fans will receive a scratch-off ticket upon entry and everyone is a winner! Great seats are available by calling 570-208-PENS. Tickets are also available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, any Ticketmaster outlet, or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
NOTES: The Penguins scratched D Alex Grant, LW Casey Pierro-Zabotel, LW Ryan Bayda, F Joey Haddad, and C Keven Veilleux… The Penguins are 5-5-0-0 this season when allowing a shorthanded goal, and 28-10-1-0 when scoring a power-play goal… The Penguins improved their Wednesday record to 11-3-0-0 with the victory.