WILKES-BARRE TWP. – During the first seven games of the season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have scored at least three goals in each contest.
On Saturday, they faced a team that was tied for the fewest goals allowed (14) in the AHL, the Norfolk Admirals, anchored by goaltender John Gibson, who had only given up nine goals in six games.
Not only were the Penguins facing a tough defense, but they did so a night after an exhausting shootout loss in Binghamton.
The end result was a Penguins power play that blanked on five chances and an offense that produced one goal in a 2-1 loss to Norfolk. The defeat is the first loss in regulation this season for the Penguins and drops their record to 6-1-0-1.
“They have some big guys back there and we played a little bit of a perimeter game tonight,” said Penguins winger Andrew Ebbett. “With bug guys like that, that makes it easy on them. We needed to get to the middle and crash the net more.
“We got outworked. It’s not right, especially at home.”
While the goals were hard to come by, what scoring there was did occur quickly for the Penguins. Just three minutes into the first period, leading scorer Brian Gibbons sprung loose on a breakaway and raced in alone into the Norfolk zone. Gibbons ripped a shot past Gibson’s stick side to give the Penguins a quick 1-0 lead.
The goal was Gibbons’ fifth of the season and 14th point, and he is now the second-leading scorer in the AHL.
The Penguins offense continued to pressure Gibson, launching 10 shots in the first eight minutes.
Gibbons’ goal was the only puck to make it past Gibson, however.
“You get that first one and you should be able to step on the peddle a little bit more. We just let up a little bit,” Ebbett said.
Norfolk did manage to even things up late in the period after Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond went to the box for an interference call.
On the ensuing power play, Admirals forward Rickard Rakell punched home a rebound past goaltender Peter Mannino to even things up 1-1.
While neither team managed to score in the second period, there was plenty of rough stuff. Leblond dropped the gloves twice, including a bout against Norfolk’s Zach Stortini, who leads the AHL in fighting majors.
Norfolk did manage to gain the lead early in the third period when Maxime Sauve scored during a scrum in front at the 5:45 mark to give the Admirals a 2-1 advantage that would hold for the win.
The Penguins did receive four minutes of power play time at the end of the period, but the man advantage was negated after a bench minor for too many men.
• RW Tom Kostopoulos (injury), C Mike Carman and D Nick D’Agostino were scratched for the Penguins.
• Saturday’s game featured four fights. Dropping the gloves for the Penguins were Bobby Farnham, Dominik Uher and Leblobd (twice). Leblond has six fighting majors on the season, one behind Stortini for the league lead.
• Saturday’s game marked the return of defenseman Alex Grant, who was traded by the Penguins to Norfolk in the offseason.
• Mannino made his second start on Saturday, allowing two goals on 24 shots. He allowed two goals on 30 shots in his first start this season.
Norfolk 2, Penguins 1
Scoring – 1. WBS, Brian Gibbons 5 (Despres, Samuelsson) 3:10. 2. NOR, Rickard Rakell 4 (Sauve, Friberg) power play 18:53. Penalties – NOR, exelby (roughing) 5:08; WBS, McNeill (roughing) 11:29; NOR, Ezekiel (fighting) 18:37; WBS, Farnham (fighting) 18:37; WBS, Leblond (interference) 18:37; WBS, Drazenovic (tripping) 19:36.
Scoring – None. Penalties – NOR, Stortini (hooking) 2:26; NOR, Stortini (fighting) 10:44; WBS, Leblond (fighting) 10:44; NOR, Kurtz (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting) 17:34; WBS, Leblond (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting) 17:34; NOR, Wagner (interference) 18:03; WBS, Farnham (misconduct) 18:03.
Scoring – 3. Maxime Sauve 2 unassisted 5:45. Penalties – NOR, Cramarossa (fighting) 6:21; WBS, Uher (fighting) 6:21; NOR, Gibson – served by Sauve (roughing) 8:31; WBS, McNeill (slashing) 11:16; WBS, Sill (charging) 13:24; NOR, Rakell (double minor – high-sticking) 17:22; WBS, bench – served by Thompson (too many men) 18:10.
Shots on goal
Norfolk – 11-5-8-24
Penguins – 10-6-11-26
Norfolk – 1 of 5
Penguins – 0 of 5
Norfolk – John Gibson 3-1-2 (26 saves-27 shots)
Penguins – Peter Mannino 1-1-0 (22-24)
Norfolk – D Garnet Exelby, D Alex Grant, LW Max Friberg, C Maxime Sauve, RW Rickard Rakell
Penguins – D Philip Samuelsson, D Simon Despres, LW Bobby Farnham, C Zach Sill, RW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
1. NOR, Maxime Sauve (goal, assist) 2. NOR, Rickard Rikell (goal) 3. WBS, Brian Gibbons (goal)
Referee – Graham Skilliter. Linesmen – Luke Murray, Jud Ritter
Attendance – 5,205