WILKES-BARRE – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins came close to forcing a deciding seventh game in their second-round series with the Charlotte Checkers before bowing out, 4-3, in Game 6 at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Although Charlotte rallied to stun the Penguins, 4-3, with four unanswered goals over the final 12:36 minutes of regulation, it was WBS that held a commanding 3-0 following a Joe Vitale
goal 1:13 minutes into the third period.
Why were the Penguins able to open such an advantage over the Checkers?
That answer is simple – dominant special teams play.
Each of WBS’ three goals were scored on special teams – a four-on-four goal by Ryan Craig
, a power-play tally from Corey Potter and Vitale’s shorthanded marker.RELATED ARTICLE: Successful Season For WBS Despite Falling Short In Game 6
Potter’s power-play goal – which he notched by firing a one-timer from the left point past a screened Mike Murphy just eight seconds into a two-man advantage – snapped an 0-for-22 goal-less drought on the power play.
But the story of the night was the penalty kill, which went a perfect eight-for-eight and included the shorthanded goal by Vitale that staked the Penguins to what appeared to be a commanding 3-0 lead.
“The penalty kill was something we worked hard at all year and I think that carried over into the playoffs,” Vitale said. “We did a good job killing all series. When you look back it’s definitely one of the positives you can take from it.”
WBS was especially strong during a 1:18 minute two-man disadvantage called late in the first period. During the ensuing sequence the Penguins held the Checkers without a shot. Craig and Robert Bortuzzo
played huge roles in the kill as Craig won two faceoffs that directly led to the Penguins being able to send the puck the length of the ice while Bortuzzo, who played a strong opening period, dropped to the ice to prevent a centering pass to the slot and had several good stick checks.
FAMILIAR FRIEND STOPS BY
The Penguins had a familiar face cheering them on Saturday night as forward Dustin Jeffrey
, who spent much of the first half of the season in WBS – earning his second straight American Hockey League All-Star berth in the process – before finishing the year in Pittsburgh, was in town to watch his former team.
Jeffrey, who was earning top line minutes in Pittsburgh before suffering a late-season torn ACL, was impressed by the effort put forth by WBS despite falling up short of their ultimate goal. Much of that credit he believes goes to WBS head coach John Hynes in addition to the entire Pittsburgh organization.
“When you look at the success the team has had despite all of the call-ups and injuries, it starts with the coaching staff and what they have done for our team, and what this organization has done for this team,” Jeffrey said. “It’s a bitter taste right now, but you at how these guys battled in the regular season, battle in the first round and through this one, it’s a compliment to the entire organization.”
Jeffrey also made sure to praise the play of goaltender Brad Thiessen
as a major reason for the team’s success.
“If you watched the way Thiessen played in the first round it was unbelievable,” he said. “He really stood on his head. That was something that really helped this team out knowing you had him back there standing on his head.”
BYLSMA RECEIVES OVATION
|Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma stopped by the broadcast booth for a radio segment with WBS color analyst Scott Stuccio. View Photo Gallery |
This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone in Pittsburgh, but Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was quite a hit at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night.
During the second intermission, Bylsma joined WBS color analyst Scott Stuccio for a radio segment on the arena’s main concourse level, which result in fans serenading him with “Dan! Dan! Dan!” chants and asking for autographs following his appearance.
Just minutes later Byslma, who served as both a head and assistant coach for WBS before being promoted to the NHL on Feb. 15, 2009, was shown on the arena scoreboard, which resulted in a standing ovation.