PESONEN KEEPS ROLLING IN SHOOTOUT WIN AGAINST PHANTOMS
WILKES-BARRE, PA- It was a balmy 64 degrees outside the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza on Wednesday. With Spring right around the corner, the temperature is sure to heat up even more.
Then again, maybe the vernal equinox isn’t the reason for the recent rise in the mercury.
Maybe it’s because Janne Pesonen has been red hot.
Pesonen continued his torrid scoring pace Wednesday night, netting both regulation goals for the Penguins and picking up the shootout winner as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took a 3-2 decision against the Philadelphia Phantoms. The win raised the Pens’ record to 43-22-2-2 on the year, and moved them into second place in the East Division.
Once again, it was Pesonen leading the way. The Penguins scoring sensation now has 12 points (4+8) in his past five games, and 18 points (8+10) in 10 games during the month of March.
But he has been paying a toll for those points.
“Janne, he battled and competed, and that’s definitely something that he’s added as the year’s gone on,” said head coach Todd Reirden. “He understands that it’s a little more clutch and grab than he’s used to in his prior hockey days. Guys are going to take shots at him. And he’s getting much better at dealing with adversity and capitalizing on it, and getting the last laugh like that.”
Pesonen has continually been the target of the opposing team’s defense during the past month. The physical play to try to stop him has increased in that time, but went a step further on Wednesday.
“I don’t call physical play someone slashing with the stick,” he said. “It’s different than physical play. Physical play is hits and taking hits and getting hits.”
Playing without a glove during the third period, Pesonen had his hand whacked by a Philadelphia defender. The red marks were still visible in the locker room more than half an hour after he picked up the decisive score in the shootout.
“Still lucky I’m in one piece,” he joked.
And it was Pesonen who got the last laugh. With the Penguins trailing 2-1 midway into the third period, he took a cross ice feed from Dustin Jeffrey and snapped home his 26th of the season to tie the game.
“You have to believe in that. It’s all you can do at that point if you’re trailing,” he said. “Keep going, keep shooting the puck, and at some point you might get the goal there.”
Then, after Miroslav Satan made scoring on the shootout look like an empty net attempt, Pesonen drew Scott Munroe out of the net, waited for a second or two, then buried his seventh goal in nine shootout attempts on the season to give the Pens a 2-0 advantage.
John Curry stopped four of five shooters, allowing only a Jared Ross wrister to beat him, to record his fourth shootout win of the season.
Pesonen put the Penguins in front at the 11:42 mark of the first period, backhanding a shot over Munroe’s glove side after the Philly netminder had come up with three big saves.
Rob Siriani evened the score midway through the game with a bank shot off the near post, and Jeff Szwez tipped home his 12th of the season off a point shot by Sean Curry at 16:32 of the second to put the Phantoms in front.
“They’re at a very desperate point in their season right now,” Reirden said of the divisional rivals. “We talked about it before the game, that these two games against us are real big for them. I know they’ve got a couple of games coming up against Binghamton, and this is their last chance to make a playoff push. We knew they were going to come in and be ready to go, and that was something that we expected.”