Penguins Punch Playoff Ticket with 4-3 Win at Hershey
HERSHEY, Pa. - The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will find themselves in familiar territory this spring.
In a down-to-the-wire 4-3 win against the Hershey Bears at Giant Center on Saturday night, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton secured its 14th consecutive appearance to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
"We wanted those two points," said Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli. "This is a tough Hershey team, especially at home. I thought our guys really dug in deep and had a great game."
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opened things up by scoring 9:01 into the game after Tom Kostopoulos fed Dominik Simon for the Czech rookie's 23rd goal of the season.
A perfectly executed give-and-go play between Kostopoulos and Carter Rowney gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead at 11:40 of the second period. Both Kostopoulos and Jake Guentzel earned their second assists of the game on Rowney's tally.
The Bears cut the Penguins' lead in half 28 second later when Liam O'Brien capitalized on a miscue behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a sharp angle goal.
Two minutes and 21 seconds before the close of the first period, Simon scored again, making it 3-1 in favor of the Penguins with his team-leading 24th tuck of the year.
The Penguins jumped out to a 4-1 lead 3:23 into the second period, when Reid McNeill's point shot bounced off of a fallen Jarrett Burton's skate and past Hershey goalie Dan Ellis. After Burton's goal, Ellis was replaced in net by Justin Peters.
Carter Camper redirected in a shot, making it 4-2 at 7:15 of the middle frame.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton held Hershey at bay on the power play until Chris Bourque slapped one in on the Bears' fifth man advantage of the game, bringing the Bears within one goal of the Penguins.
Hershey later went on a four minute power play after a high-sticking double minor was assessed to Simon, but Wilkes-Barre/Scranton put forth a potent penalty killing display, preventing the tying goal en route to victory.
"That was a gut check for the guys," Donatelli said of the Penguins lengthy third period penalty kill. "That's a really good power play there for Hershey. They did a great job. The P.K. was huge for us tonight."
The Penguins finished the night six-for-seven on the penalty kill, but were unsuccessful on their three power plays.
Brian Foster got the win in net for the Penguins, making 21 saves on 24 shots.
With their spot in the postseason secure, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's work isn't done yet. Donatelli and the Penguins now turn their attention to catching the Bears for first place in the Atlantic Division.
"We want to come in first," said Donatelli. "We want home ice. We've got another big game here tomorrow against Hershey back at home. If we can get that one, we're one point out. It's funny how that works."
Puck drop between the Penguins and Bears is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.
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