PENGUINS RALLY COMES UP SHORT IN HERSHEY
HERSHEY, PA- The Penguins rallied for a pair of third period goals, but came up just short in their comeback bid, as the Hershey Bears posted a 3-2 win Saturday night at a sold out Giant Center. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Pens, and was Hershey’s first win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton since opening night, when the East Division foes took an 8-4 win at the Wachovia Arena. The Penguins had won the past five meetings between the clubs prior to Saturday night’s tilt.
The key play came early in the third period, with the Bears leading by a score of 2-0. Deryk Engelland picked up the puck behind his own net, and turned to send a shot down the boards. But his clearing attempt hit referee Ghislain Hebert and bounced out to the front of the net, where Grant McNeil picked it up and put home his second tally of the season - the eventual game-winning goal.
“It would have been icing probably,” said Engelland. “Instead it goes off the ref, right in the slot. You’ve got to battle through that I guess. I thought he shouldn’t have been there in that spot, but it could have hit the glass and done the same thing.”
“It’s a break for them, but that’s what happens when you play in the offensive zone,” said head coach Todd Reirden.
The goal proved to be critical as the Penguins pounced for two quick tallies in the next three-and-a-half minutes.
First, Mark Letestu grabbed his 20th of the season with a power play wrister from between the dots at 5:28. The goal came on the team’s sixth power play attempt of the evening.
“It would have been nice if we would have come through earlier [on the power play],” said Letestu. “Playing with a lead is something any team wants to do. Unfortunately it didn’t happen for us tonight.”
Letestu then set up Engelland, who broke to the net and deflected a feed behind Simeon Varlamov for his third goal of the campaign at 6:59 of the third.
Wilkes-Barre continued to pressure, and picked up even more momentum when John Curry snuffed an Alexandre Giroux penalty shot 35 seconds after the Engelland goal.
“A couple of goals and then we get that save, we think we can make another push for it,” said Reirden. “We’ve had some success against these guys in come from behind fashion. Credit to our guys, they battled and competed to the very end. We didn’t get the bounce we needed.”
After a scoreless first period, Hershey got on the board with a pair of Graham Mink goals in the second. The first was a stuff home from the top the crease at 13:30, and the second came during a power play attempt in the waning seconds of the period.
The game had all the look and feel of a postseason contest, something that Engelland expects to continue during the remainder of the 2008-09 campaign.
“We think no matter what, to get out of the East you’re probably going to have to go through these guys or Bridgeport, which are two great teams,” he said. “It was a playoff game tonight, and we play them three more times this season, and I’m sure it’s going to be the same matchup the rest of the way. It’s playoff atmosphere and it’s fun hockey.”