The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins came into Saturday night’s game looking for a victory and an extra point after falling to the Binghamton Senators 4-3 in the shootout on Friday.
But even though Brian Gibbons once again lit the lamp, it wasn’t meant to be. The third-year pro was the team’s lone scorer as the Pens lost to the Norfolk Admirals by a score of 2-1. It was the Pens’ second straight loss and their first at Mohegan Sun Arena this season.
Gibbons opened the scoring at 3:10 of the first period with assists from defensemen Philip Samuelsson and Simon Despres. But with 1:07 remaining in the opening frame and Pierre Luc Leblond off for interference, Norfolk’s Rickard Rackell evened the score heading into the locker room.
Coach John Hynes praised Gibbons heading into this weekend’s games by saying, “The end results for him are on the scoreboard and he’s playing real well, but the reason why those are coming is he’s been very consistent in his game and in his work habits. He’s the perfect example of a guy who’s got all the hockey sense, all the ability, all the skill, but now, his mind is right.”
“I think you go into every game and you work hard, and you’re consistent, then chances are you’re going to have a good game.” Gibbons added.
A scoreless second period featured two fights from Leblond with John Kurtz and Zack Stortini. The fights brought some life into the home crowd and cemented Leblond as one of the team’s go-to tough guys this season. When battling Kurtz, he received his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the year for removing his helmet before the fight.
In the third period, Maxime Sauve scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 5:45. The Penguins had some good scoring chances, but the closest they got was when the puck went wide of Admirals goalie John Gibson. Some scrambles near the net got shots in close, but the play was blown dead.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was also awarded a four-minute power play near the end of the game when Rackell was sent off for high sticking at 17:22, but the call was negated when the Pens were called for too many men at 18:10. Paul Thompson served the penalty to close out the game.
Peter Mannino, who made his home debut for the Pens, stopped 22 of 24 shots in defeat. Despite the black mark, he is happy to be back in the swing of things after suffering a muscle tear in his leg last season. Saturday’s game marked his second start of the season, with his first coming in last week’s win come-from-behind game over the Worcester Sharks.
“Getting in a game and being competitive again, to be able to do that was refreshing,” Mannino told Tom Venesky of The Times Leader. “The biggest problem in coming back was getting to the point where I was able to say to myself it’s going to hold up.”
“I’m 100 percent healthy now and I’m ready to take advantage of playing for this organization.”
Three Stars of the Game
3. Brian Gibbons, WBS (goal)
2. Rickard Rackell, Norfolk (one goal, plus-one)
1. Maxime Sauve, Norfolk (two points, plus-one)
Harry Zolnierczyk was taken down twice during the game tonight. He returned after falling alongside the boards in the second period.
Former Penguins defenseman Alex Grant returned to Wilkes-Barre for the first time since being traded to the Anaheim Ducks in the summer. He had no points with a minus-one on Saturday and has four points in eight games for the Admirals on the season.
The Pens were missing two key players. Forward Jayson Megna was called up to Pittsburgh earlier this week, and team captain Tom Kostopoulos is day-to-day with an injury.
The Pens have wrapped up their October schedule and will be back at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, November 1 to host the Hershey Bears.
Norfolk will play in Hershey on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. The Bears have just one win on the season and fell to the Hartford Wolfpack 4-3 on Saturday.
Alison is currently covering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL for The Hockey Writers after writing about the NHL’s New Jersey Devils from 2011-2012. She is currently employed for the fast growing sports website Bleacher Report as a quality editor and hopes to one day have a media relations career with a professional hockey team. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonM_110.