Quick Start Sends Penguins Past Crunch

October 31, 2016

WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins entered Sunday in danger of losing two straight games for the first time since the Eastern Conference semifinals during last year’s Calder Cup playoffs. However, after a stellar first 20 minutes of play, the Penguins had little to worry about over the final two periods, as they cruised to a 6-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch in front of 3,964 at Mohegan Sun Arena on an afternoon where 14 different players earned at least one point. “I think we were really disappointed with what happened the night before when we kind of let Springfield hang around (and come back to win),” said Carter Rowney, who netted one of the Penguins’ three first-period tallies. “I think for us, this is our rink and we knew it was a three-in-three for them, so we just wanted to get off to a good start and play the right way.” The win gave Wilkes-Barre points in five straight and improved its record to 5-1-1-0 (11 points, first in the Atlantic Division) on the season, while also extending a run of holding opponents to one goal or fewer in regulation to six games. Rowney’s second goal of the season got the Penguins going 3:52 into the first before Kevin Porter took over, netting an even-strength goal at 14:51 and a power-play tally 3:46 later. The goals were the third and fourth of the season for Porter, who netted his other two goals (both of which were shorthanded) this season against Syracuse (4-3-0-0) eight days ago in the teams’ first matchup. “I think he’s found his team here,” Rowney said of Porter. “I think he wishes we played them 12 times. He’s played well against this team, and he’s created a lot of offense and a lot of chances, and he’s just getting rewarded.” The Crunch pushed back in the second period, outshooting the Penguins, 10-4, in the frame, but Casey DeSmith (2-0-0-0), making his second start of the season, was up to the task. Even when the Crunch put DeSmith in tough spots in the second period, his defense was able to bail him out, with Barry Goers clearing a loose puck in front of the net and Rowney using his stick to block a shot that looked like it was on its way to making it a 3-1 game. “It’s stuff like (those plays by Goers and Rowney) that allows us to give up one goal a game and put up those good defensive numbers,” said DeSmith (22 saves), who kept his goals-against average at 1.00 despite seeing his save percentage drop to .960. Tom Kostopoulos helped the Penguins extend their lead to 4-0 late in the second when he corralled a feed from Jake Guentzel and sent it past Syracuse goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis (21 saves). The Crunch managed to avoid being shut out thanks to a goal from Mike Halmo early in the third, but markers from Jean-Sebastien Dea and Oskar Sundqvist kept the game well out of Syracuse’s reach. Pat McGrath — who also had his second fighting major of the season on Sunday — Goers and Ethan Prow all recorded their first points of the season in the win. “It’s always good when you can see contributions throughout the whole lineup,” Rowney said. “I think when we have lines rolling and everyone contributing, that’s when we’re at our best. It’s more fun to watch, and when you see everyone contributing it just makes it more exciting.” slakso@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2083, @CVSethLakso