T-Birds' Hard-Fought Effort Earns Point vs. Penguins
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (7-7-0-4) fought valiantly but were bested in a shootout, 3-2, by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (10-5-1-1) on Saturday night at the MassMutual Center in a game that saw the T-Birds debut their alternate, blue third jerseys.
Two of the league's top eight defensive units showed off their prowess in the opening 19 minutes, as both teams' penalty-killing units fended off an opposition chance, while goalies Joel Hofer of Springfield and Filip Lindberg of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton traded saves in a period that had 27 shots find the target.
Lindberg finally blinked first with just 37.7 seconds left in the period. Hugh McGing scooped up a loose puck below the goal line and circled his way to the top of the left circle before turning to his forehand and beating Lindberg on the glove side to make it 1-0. It was McGing's fourth goal of the season, but just his second in the last 12 games.
Hofer would stay perfect until the 13:31 mark of the middle period. After a Penguin face-off win in the offensive zone, Ty Smith hit Jon Lizotte for a one-timer from the center point position. Sam Poulin cut through the shooting lane and got a piece of the initial attempt to guide it past Hofer, tying the game, 1-1.
The T-Birds' final-minute magic came to the forefront once again in period two. With a man advantage in the dying seconds, Martin Frk set up Jake Neighbours for a one-timer from the right circle. Will Bitten did the work from there, taking away Lindberg's eyes and deflecting the shot through the netminder with 2.7 seconds to play, giving Springfield the 2-1 advantage into the third on his seventh goal of the year.
Springfield had multiple chances to extend their one-goal advantage, but Lindberg did not blink on a pair of chances off a Frk slap shot that was labeled for the top corner, as well as a Bitten one-touch shot from point-blank range.
The T-Birds defense could not quite take the lead across the finish line, as Valtteri Puustinen raced into the Springfield zone ahead of a defender and then outwaited Hofer, slipping a forehand shot through the five-hole to tie the game, 2-2, with just 3:05 to play.
Hofer did keep his team alive after making five stellar stops in the 3-on-3 overtime period, forcing the game into a shootout. While Dmitri Samorukov beat Lindberg on the first shot of the affair, the Penguins bounced back on tallies from Alex Nylander and Poulin, while Lindberg came up with glove saves on both Brady Lyle and Bitten.
Springfield returns to the road for three of its next four games, beginning with a Sunday matinee against the Bridgeport Islanders at 3:00 p.m. at Total Mortgage Arena.
Thunderbirds fans can reserve their seats for the 2022-23 season and lock in the best prices and member benefits by calling (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visiting www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.
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Springfield Thunderbirds vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
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