The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins dropped their American Hockey League playoff opener to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 2-1, Thursday night.
The Sound Tigers built a 2-0 lead on the Baby Penguins before Jonathan Filewich ripped Guillaume Lefebvre’s pass into the net.
In a battle of two of the AHL’s top goalies, Bridgeport’s Wade Dubielewicz edged Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Dany Sabourin. Dubielewicz stopped 24 of 25 shots, while Sabourin saved 23 of 25 shots.
Game 2 is Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Baby Penguins won the AHL’s Eastern Conference East Division title with a 51-18-5-6 record. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished second overall in the Eastern Conference with 113 points. The Baby Penguins wrapped up the regular season with a 4-0-0-1 record in their last five games and a 6-2-1-1 mark in their last 10.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has allowed the fewest goals in the AHL regular season at 178. The Baby Penguins got some reinforcements from parent-club Pittsburgh in defensemen Ryan Whitney and Noah Welch and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Welch played in five games in Pittsburgh this year – including the last two this week when Sergei Gonchar was out of the lineup with an illness. He had one goal and three assists.
Welch is pumped up for the playoffs, but is wary of Bridgeport, which finished 38-33-6-3.
“We’re not looking past Bridgeport. They have like nine guys going down from the [New York] Islanders,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the playoffs – Ryan, Fleury and I. We have our hands full, but I think we have a good enough team that we should be able to makew a nice run.”
Whitney and Fleury are no strangers to the AHL playoffs. They look forward to bolstering the Baby Penguins’ defense.
Whitney capped his rookie NHL campaign in Pittsburgh with 38 points (6+38) in 68 games.
“It’s important to play in playoff games and games that are must-wins. The playoffs are fun,” he said. “It’s exciting, but it’s a lot of hard work. The playoffs can be a big grind and a battle. I am excited to go.”
Fleury finished with a 13-27-6 record in Pittsburgh this year. He had a 3.25 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage. He began the year in the AHL and dominated play before he was recalled to Pittsburgh.
“I think it’s going to be fun. There’s a good bunch of guys there to play with,” he said. “So, I am looking forward to it.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton plays Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven series in Bridgeport on Sunday and Tuesday. Game 5 is in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on April 26; Game 6 is in Bridgeport on April 28 and Game 7 is April 29 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.