Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season in Review:
Eastern Conference Quarterfinal versus Binghamton
by Leah Cover
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins took the ice in 2012-13 for their 14th season of play and looking to come on top of the rough and tumble East Division. With the NHL lockout providing the backdrop for the first half of the season, the Penguins seemed to find their stride over the final two months of the regular season en route to their 11th consecutive Calder Cup Playoff appearance. We now turn to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s run through the postseason as break things down, series-by-series.
Having to wait until the final day of the regular season learned their fate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton settled into the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, setting-up a first round, best-of-five series against the Binghamton Senators. Though the Senators had taken the season series against the Penguins, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was the victor in the last three meetings. It made for a match-up in which neither side had a clear advantage and every game was expected to be tightly-contested.
Proving the prognosticators right, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton needed overtime to take Game 1 at Binghamton on April 27th.
The Penguins flexed their offensive muscle early on and struck first at 10:58 of the first period after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went on the power play. Brian Gibbons tipped in Brian Dumoulin’s point shot for the 1-0 lead. Roughly six minutes later, Trevor Smith and Riley Holzapfel found linemate Chad Kolarik to extend the Penguins cushion to 2-0. Any momentum the Penguins might have enjoyed going into the intermission was taken away when Binghamton headed ona man-advantage late in the period. Shane Prince converted for the Senators and cut the Penguins’ lead in half with 48 seconds left in the frame.
Less than two minutes into the second, back-to-back penalties on the Senators gave Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1:28 on the two-man advantage and a glorious opportunity to go back up by two. Just three seconds later, a high-sticking call all but wiped out the 5-on-3 and the Penguins were unable to score. Two power play chances by Binghamton in the second also fell by the wayside, but Mark Stone forced a turnover and found an opening behind netminder Jeff Zatkoff, tying the game late in the period.
A scoreless third stanza gave way to overtime where Chad Kolarik flashed his game-winning magic once again. At 8:18 of the extra session, he snapped a shot that beat goalie Nathan Lawson low to the blocker side to lift the Penguins to victory. It was his fourth game-winner of the year for the squad.
The following day, the score and the result were the same as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opened up a 2-0 lead in the series. The Penguins went on the power play in the opening minutes of Game 2 and drew first blood at 2:48 when Holzapfel pounced on a rebound chance and knocked it past Lawson. Seemingly always keeping pace, for Binghamton netted the equalizer on Mark Puempel’s marker at 14:35 to end the first.
Despite being outshot 11-6 in the second, the Penguins were able to pull away thanks to a pair of goals to end the period. The go-ahead tally came at 12:03 when Chris Collins floated a long wrist shot from the side wall that found the back of the net. With 1.6 seconds remaining until the intermission, Warren Peters stretched the lead to 3-1 when he was knocked to the ice in front of the crease and was still able to swipe a loose puck across the goal line.
In the third, a desperate Binghamton team poured it on offensively, owning a 14-5 shot advantage. Though the Senators’ Chad Wiseman notched a power play goal with less than 20 seconds remaining, Jeff Zatkoff was outstanding in net to help the Penguins to the win.
With two playoff wins already in the bag, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton returned home looking to wrap up the series in Game 3 on May 2.
For the first time in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, it was the Senators who struck first as Puempel scored for the second time in as many games to put his team up, 1-0, five minutes into the contest.
The second period would see scoreless play as Binghamton clung to their 1-0 advantage.
The Penguins failed to solve Binghamton netminder Nathan Lawson until Jayson Megna slipped Zach Sill the puck for a shorthanded goal that knotted the match at 7:32 in the third.
Tied at one, the Penguins were awarded a late power play with 2:46 left in regulation. Trevor Smith found Riley Holzapfel alone on the far post for a one-timer at 18:42 that put Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on top for good. Less than a minute later, Sill returned the favor to Megna, setting him up for an empty netter to extend the Penguins’ lead to 3-1. A last minute tally by Binghamton right before the buzzer put the final score at 3-2.
The Penguins went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, while netminder Brad Thiessen, in his first 2013 playoff appearance, made 19-out-of-21 saves.
After sweeping Binghamton, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins girded themselves for the second-round series against the AHL regular season champions – the Providence Bruins.
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