PESONEN PACES PENS, BUT MAC ATTACKS OLD MATES
WILKES-BARRE, PA – Kurtis McLean returned to Wilkes-Barre in an opposing uniform for the first time on Friday night, and showed flashes of his past glories, tallying twice in the shootout to help the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to a 4-3 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The defeat dropped the Pens' record to 1-1-0-1 on the young season, while Bridgeport upped its record to 2-1-0-1.
McLean’s heroics against his former team slightly overshadowed a three-point night by Janne Pesonen, the Finnish scoring sensation signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the offseason. Pesonen assisted on goals by Chris Minard and Jeff Taffe, before scoring on a breakaway midway through the third period to tie the game at 3-3.
Pesonen also went one for two in the shootout, giving the Penguins their only successful attempt against Yann Danis.
“He certainly showed us again what he can do with time and space, both on his breakaway goal five on five, and then in the shootout,” head coach Dan Bylsma said of Pesonen. “He’s got a large amount of skill, he’s got speed, he’s got a lot of offensive knack around the net. When he plays with that speed, you see his skill.”
The Sound Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one period, with Tomas Marcinko pouncing on a loose puck at the top of the crease three minutes into the game and Tim Jackman taking advantage of an almost right-angle deflection off the side boards. Goaltender Adma Berkhoel moved behind the net to pick up the rim-around, but the puck ended up in the slot instead where Jackman had a virtual empty net at which to shoot.
“I think we counted two, no more than three scoring chances for them in the first. And one of them is a bad bounce goal that has to count as a scoring chance,” Bylsma stated. “Having said that, they drew four penalties because of the way they were playing. They were aggressive, they came hard. We were expecting that from them. As a result, we were in a position to have to play defense a lot.”
The Penguins didn’t come to life until Deryk Engelland took matters into his own hands just four ticks into the second period, dropping the gloves and then dropping Jason Pitton.
Chris Minard followed minutes later with his third goal of the season, chipping a loose puck over Danis’ right shoulder during a power play.
“In the second, it was a situation where in the first eight minutes, we got to our game,” said Bylsma, “we got on them, we put pressure on them, we carried the play.”
But Jesse Joensuu wristed a one-timer into the far corner off a Blake Comeau cross-ice feed at 7:53 to regain the two-goal cushion for the Sound Tigers.
Taffe pulled the Pens to within one early in the third, before Pesonen took advantage of a miscue by Jamie Fraser at the bleu line. The Bridgeport defender stumbled and coughed up the puck, which gave Pesonen a clear lane to the net. He pulled the puck to his backhand and slipped it by Danis’ pad for his first goal in North America.
Pesonen then led off the shootout with a goal, before Danis stopped the next five attempts. McLean capitalized on both of his tries, giving him a win on his Wachovia return.
“It’s good for Mac, and Mac’s good at shootouts. He did that for us as well,” said Bylsma. “But again it’s not about Kurtis McLean tonight for me. It’s not about the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’s about us trying to find our game plan.”