PENS BREAK OUT OF POWER PLAY SLUMP, SINK ADMIRALS
WILKES-BARRE, PA - A little more than a month ago, the Penguins were putting the finishing touches on a team record-tying nine game winning streak.
Between the final victory in that string and Sunday night’s game, the Pens had gone just 3-4-1-0, and hadn’t posted more than one power play goal in any of those eight contests.
Mark Letestu put that stat to bed all by himself - in a matter of 12:37.
Letestu netted back-to-back power play goals, and Chris Minard tacked on a third before the opening frame was over, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton recorded a 4-1 win against the Norfolk Admirals on Sunday evening at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza.
“That was a big win for us after a tough weekend, and a big response by our power play, stepping up to the plate tonight,” said head coach Todd Reirden. “It was a good night for us tonight in terms of generating some offensive chances. We tried a little bit of a different look tonight on the power play, and had some positive result from it.”
John Curry picked up the win in net and set a new team record with his 49th career victory, snapping a tie with Sebastien Caron.
The Penguins tied their season-high with three power play goals in the game, and upped their record to 39-21-2-2 and 82 points in the process. Meanwhile, the Hershey Bears (40-18-1-5, 86 points) dropped a 6-3 decision in Cleveland, and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (39-18-3-5, 86 points) downed the Hartford WolfPack by the same score to create a log jam at the top of the East Division Standings.
“We came out with some pretty good efforts this weekend and unfortunately didn’t get the results we wanted,” said Letestu, whose netted goals 17 and 18 on the season in the first period. “The way we’ve been playing something had to give. Fortunately enough for us tonight, we got three on the power play quick. I think it energized the team and got the ball rolling in the right direction tonight.”
Letestu, who has 30 points (13+17) since the beginning of January, was moved to the top power play unit and first line in an effort to spark the offense. It apparently worked.
“I spent a lot of time thinking over some different options, and how to best utilize guys,” said Reirden. “It was a situation tonight where I thought we’d try Mark Letestu on that group, and obviously it helps a lot when you get a guy named Goligoski back out there too.”
Letestu opened the scoring at 8:36, picking up a puck on the left side of the net and flipping it over Riku Helenius. He followed four minutes later with his second, an apparent pass to Chris Minard on the goal mouth. Both Minard and Helenius missed the puck, which slid by smoothly.
Minard made up for the missed opportunity minutes later, crashing the net for his 29th tally of the season, and his first since January 23.
The damage was enough to chase Helenius from the net after just 20 minutes of play.
Craig Kowalski did a bit better, stopping 20 of 21 shots he faced, the lone miscue coming off a Dustin Jeffrey breakaway midway through the game.
Curry came within 0.1 seconds of picking up his fourth shutout of the season, but Brandon Bochenski was credited with a power play goal as time expired to spoil the clean sheet.