In front of a packed house at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, the WBS Penguins defeated the visiting Hershey Bears 4-3 - opening their season with a victory in the shootout. The Pens were able to capitalize on their shootout attempts and Brad Thiessen stopped all but one of the Bears shooters he faced. A look at the Baby Pens opening night lines combinations as well a recap of a dramatic way to start the season, in a good way. More after the jump.
1st line - Brett Sterling- Dustin Jeffrey- Nick Johnson
3rd line - Chris Collins- Joe Vitale- Geoff Walker
4th line - Bryan Lerg- Zach Sill- Jesse Boulerice
Goalie - Thiessen
The biggest story is that although Sheldon Souray was loaned to the Bears, he did not play tonight. For the Pens, forward Keven Veilleux (injured) did not play tonight. The Pens scratched forwards Joey Haddad, Nick Petersen and Ryan Schnell. Drew Fata and Jason DeSantis were scratched on defense.
The game got off to a quick, back-and-forth start in the first period. Wagner's tripping penalty led to Hershey's early goal, a power-play goal scored by Kyle Greentree just 3:36 into the game. The Pens tied it up less than a minute later with a Collins even-strength goal, from Walker and Vitale. They also got a power-play goal of their own soon after, with Johnson getting his first of the season from Hutchinson and Sterling. But the Bears battled back tying it at two before the period came to close on an even-strength goal by Steve Pinizzotto. All four goals came in the first half of the period.
The Pens got off 16 shots in the second period, but they were only able to score once. Hutchinson again found the score sheet, with Craig and Wallace adding assists. All three players that made the play for that crucial score wore wearing the "A" on their jersey tonight. A captain hasn't been selected yet by the Pens but I expected that all three players would have strong performances and they did, proving they lead by example.
After Strait took an untimely crosschecking penalty into the locker room, the Bears scored just 48 seconds into the third period. It was their second power-play goal of the night, and Keith Aucoin tied the game at three. Aucoin and Greentree were the Bears' best players tonight. Each had a goal and an assist. The third period ended in a deadlock and in the ensuing overtime, the Pens outshot the Bears 5-0. Unfortunately they were unable to get one more past Braden Holtby and the game had to go to a shootout to be decided.
After allowing the Bears to score on their first attempt, Thiessen stopped the following three while Johnson, Walker and Sterling all made their attempts to seal the deal for the Pens.
Thiessen: stopped 3 out of 4 Holtby: stopped 1 out of 4
1. Jeffrey (N) Bouchard (Y)
2. Johnson (Y) Willsie (N)
3. Walker (Y) Aucoin (N)
4. Sterling (Y) Perreault (N)