PENS TRIUMPH IN FIRST GAME UNDER REIRDEN, 3-1
SYRACUSE, NY -The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins equaled their all-time high for consecutive wins, picking up their ninth straight victory in a 3-1 win against the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night at the War Memorial at OnCenter.
The victory was the first for interim head coach Todd Reirden, and upped the Penguins’ record to 36-16-1-2 on the year. The Crunch suffered their third straight loss and fell to 26-25-3-2.
The win, coupled with a 3-2 loss by the Hershey Bears in Rochester, leaves the Penguins just one point out of first place in the East Division with two games in hand.
For Reirden, who was thrust into the head coaching position just 72 hours ago, it was a special night all around.
“I tell you, it’s an amazing experience [winning your first game as a coach]. It’s tough to describe,” he said. “It’s something where I’ve put a lot of time and effort into helping the guys achieve something. And I think for me, I was more excited for the guys than I was for myself.”
The victory leaves the team one win short of setting a new franchise record for consecutive wins, a mark which could fall in Hamilton on Saturday night.
“They’ve been working towards this, trying to get this record. It’s been a bit of a cause we’ve championed,” the coach said.
Tying the mark didn’t come easily though, as the Pens fell behind midway through the opening frame when Nikita Filatov backhanded home a power play goal from close range for his ninth goal of the season.
“We didn’t play our best hockey in the first period. I liked our first few shifts, but then from that point on, we didn’t manage the puck properly and they started to carry the play,” stated Reirden.
The Pens battled back late in the first as Mark Letestu redirected home his 16th of the season with Trevor Frischman in the penalty box for interference at 17:07.
Wilkes-Barre went ahead with its second goal on the man advantage on the night, as Luca Caputi pounced on a puck in the crease and easily tapped home his 15th of the season, and his fourth in his last five games with the AHL club.
“[The power play unit] definitely helped my cause tonight,” said Reirden, who regularly runs the PP. “I thought our power play was really good tonight. It’s something we spent some time with earlier, actually spent some time with in practice two days this week, working at it. We found a good way to break them down.”
Connor James finished off the scoring with an odd angle shot off the right wing that beat Sebastien Dahm 12:39 into the third period. That capped a comeback that will live a long time in Reirden’s mind.
“Our guys, when they are down in the game or they are struggling in the game, they don’t try to change anything,” he said. “They know what it is that’s been effective for us, and they stick to and I’m really proud of them.”
NOTES: John Curry stopped 27 shots to record his 11th straight victory. It was also Curry’s 19th win in his past 22 games. He now has 46 wins for his Penguins career, two shy of Sebastien Caron’s all-time team record.