UTICA, N.Y. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins erased a three-goal deficit to force overtime, but ultimately fell in the extra frame, 5-4, to the Utica Comets at Adirondack Bank Center on Friday night.
Coming from behind to extend the game past regulation for the second contest in a row, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (37-19-6-2) reduced their magic number to clinch a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs down to 11.
Utica started constructing their lead at 91 seconds into the game when Michael Carcone beat Tristan Jarry following a turnover in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s defensive zone.
Michael Chaput struck on the Comets’ first power play of the contest, sniping the near-side top corner over Jarry’s shoulder midway through the opening frame. The puck blistered in and out of the net so quickly that the referee initially deemed there to be no goal, but a short video review revealed Chaput’s shot had crossed the goal line.
Chaput scored again to make it 3-0 at 15:27 of the first period, only to see Jean-Sébastien Dea answer back 29 seconds thereafter. Dea’s tally marked a dramatic momentum shift in the game as the Penguins proceeded to unload a barrage of shots at Thatcher Demko in the last four minutes of the frame, but they couldn’t cut into the 3-1 hole before the first intermission.
Daniel Sprong worked to get Wilkes-Barre/Scranton within one at 5:30 of the second period by stripping Utica defenseman Ashton Sautner of the puck at the blue line and converting on a two-on-none rush for his team-leading 24th goal of the year.
Midway through the game a hit away from the play by Guillaume Brisebois on Thomas Di Pauli knocked the Penguins forward out of the contest. Afterwards, chaos ensued. The Penguins and Comets combined for 38 penalty minutes in the middle frame.
The Comets cooled from their hot tempers first, and composed themselves enough for Zac Lynch to deposit a bar-down goal with 3:02 left in the second period. Lynch’s first of the season made it 4-2, Utica.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s captain, Tom Kostopoulos, knocked in a rebound to bring his team back within one goal at 11:15 of the final frame of regulation. Then, Gage Quinney mustered the 4-4 equalizer when only 2:10 remained.
The Penguins earned a point in the standings by forcing overtime, but the Comets walked away with the win thanks to Sautner’s game-winner 1:15 into the extra session.
Jarry recorded 33 saves, while the opposing Demko posted 37 stops.
The Penguins’ next game is tomorrow, Saturday, Mar. 24, when they visit the Binghamton Devils. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next home game is against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Sunday, Mar. 25. Puck drop between the Penguins and Sound Tigers is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Individual tickets for all Penguins home games are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.
Season ticket packages for the 19th season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.