The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins beat the Hershey Bears 3-2 tonight, their second victory over the Bears this season. NHL castaway Sheldon Souray played in his third game for the Bears, and I have to admit I was rather unimpressed with his performance. He took two undisciplined penalties and seemed to be chasing the Penguins forwards more times than not.
With the Norfolk Admirals losing tonight to Syracuse, the Pens are the only unbeaten team left in the AHL. The Pens will host the Binghamton Senators tomorrow night. The lineup and recap after the jump.
Goalie: Brad Thiessen
- Brett Sterling, who left the team's last game in Charlotte with a leg injury, didn't practice this week and sat out of tonight's game. He was listed as day-to-day so hopefully he can get back into action soon.
- Ryan Craig returned to the lineup tonight. He hadn't played since the team's opening night game against Hershey.
- Keven Veilleux came back from injury to play in his first game of the season tonight. If you recall the WBS Penguins preview I mentioned Veilleux as a guy to look out for this season. He didn't make an impact tonight but going forward he should be a top six guy for the Pens.
- Joey Mormina and Carl Sneep were the third defensive pairing tonight. The Pens have been rotating the 5 and 6 spot on defense between Sneep, Mormina, Drew Fata and Jason DeSantis.
From looking at the scoresheet it might look like the Pens were outplayed. They were outshot 32-15 and didn't muster more than 6 shots in any period. But, they grabbed a 2-0 lead early and kept the Bears shots to the outside to preserve the win.
Joe Vitale played great tonight. He forechecked hard on the penalty kill all night. With less than four minutes left in the first period Vitale stole a puck in the offensive zone and led a 2 on 1 shorthanded rush. He took the shot and beat Dany Sabourin (a former Penguin) to the short side for the 1-0 lead.
Vitale scored his second of the game and fourth in five games early in the second period. Corey Potter fanned on a point shot and Vitale was in the right place at the right time. He slammed a puck home to give the Pens a 2-0 lead.
It looked as though the Bears would go into the second intermission only down one goal. But a holding the stick penalty 34 seconds after the Bears tally put the Penguins on a late power play.
Steve Wagner's point shot was blocked but the puck slid over to Robert Bortuzzo and he made no mistake. He unleashed a bomb of a shot that rang off the crossbar on its way in. The Pens only went 1 for 5 on the power play tonight but the timing of this goal couldn't have been any better. The late second period goal really deflated the Bears and sent them to the locker room down two.
The Pens were outshot in the third period 14-5. But they weren't looking to score goals; they seemed more content on playing good defense and preventing the Bears playmakers like Keith Aucoin and Kyle Greentree out of the dangerous areas in the slot.
With about two minutes to go and down two goals, the Bears pulled Sabourin for the extra attacker. The move paid off when Greentree, laying on his stomach behind the net, shoved the puck out front to Andrew Gordon who tapped the puck past Thiessen.
But that's as close as the Bears would get and a Souray icing call with two seconds left iced the Bears chances of tying the game.
My 3 Stars of the Game
3. Thiessen - 30 saves on 32 shots. Played the puck really well tonight. Tough to say who the team's number one goaltender is right now. The team has literally alternated the starter every game. Neither goalie has lost a game but I like Thiessen over Curry right now.
2. Bortuzzo - Power play goal (the game winner), also led the Pens penalty kill to a perfect 5 for 5 tonight.
1. Vitale - An easy pick. He was all over the ice tonight and seemed to be a step ahead of everyone. Scored a shorthanded goal and an even strength goal. His two goals tonight give him a team leading four goals on the season. In 74 games last season, Vitale recorded 6 goals.