The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ third-period magic is fading fast.
On Wednesday night, the Penguins could not get on the board against the Springfield Falcons until the final period. Harry Zolnierczyk scored on a penalty shot, and Paul Thompson tied the game with his first goal of the year, but the Pens fell 3-2. Springfield swept the season series two games to none.
Patrick McNeill got things going for the Falcons 10:42 into the first period just 13 seconds after teammate Andrew Joudrey was called for interference. The goal came during 4-on-4 hockey, as Brendan Mikkelson was in the box for WBS for a high-sticking call.
In the second period, Pierre Leblond and Cody Bass dropped gloves along the boards in the Falcons’ zone, and some pushing and shoving took place among other players on the two teams. But with 52 seconds left, McNeill struck again on the power play, one of Springfield’s two goals on six chances with the man advantage.
The Pens also gave the Falcons some leeway on the power play back in November in a 4-3 loss in Massachusetts. Springfield’s power play is 14th in the AHL with an 18 percent success rate, but last month, it went 2-for-8 in that contest.
WBS attempted to start its comeback in the third period when Zolnierczyk was hauled down on a breakaway. He was awarded a penalty shot and converted at 2:58 of the period, and the goal was just the Penguins’ second successful penalty shot in team history. Zolnierczyk remains the team’s leading goal scorer with 10 on the year and returned to the AHL from a brief call-up to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
At 11:43, Thompson, who had been a healthy scratch several times this season, finally scored his first goal of the year off former Falcons forward Nick Drazenovic. He now has two points in 17 games and hopes to end the longest scoring drought of his career.
“I’ve had a bigger role with a lot of guys up and a lot of injuries. This is when I have to start producing more,” Thompson said prior to Wednesday’s game. It’s a little bit frustrating, but the only way you can get out of it is keep working hard.”
“I can’t be cheating out there. I’ve just been trying to get pucks to the net and get myself to the net. I think if I keep doing these things and keep going, I can get a bounce here soon and get on a roll.”
But the Pens could not get anything else going. Jonathan Marchessault tallied his sixth of the season just under a minute later, with former WBS captain Ryan Craig picking up an assist.
Also during the third period, Penguin winger Bobby Farnham went down with an apparent leg injury. He stayed on his knees, pounding the ice in frustration, before getting up under his own power. He did not return to the game.
Jonathan Bombulie, the Penguins beat writer for The Citizens Voice, explained it best in his post-game blog entry:
Coach John Hynes wasn’t pleased after the game. He said that at the point where the Penguins tied the score 2-2, you either find a way to win or find a way to lose. He also wasn’t pleased that Springfield scored on two of its last three power-play attempts. He said the team has to get a stop in those situations.
Three Stars of the Game
3. Paul Thompson, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (game-tying goal)
2. Harry Zolnierczyk, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (penalty shot goal)
1. Patrick McNeill, Springfield (two goals)
The Penguins will play two home games this weekend starting with a game with the Hershey Bears on Friday night. The Pens lead the season series 4-1.
The Falcons move on to Norfolk and will have a two-game set with the Admirals this weekend.
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.