Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By TOM ROBINSON Special to the Press Herald
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins split the Portland Pirates' penalty-killing unit right down the middle Friday night.
TODAY: Pirates at Hershey Bears, 7 p.m.
SUNDAY: Pirates at Springfield Falcons, 3 p.m.
The East Division-leading Penguins scored power-play goals late in each of the first two periods on shots from the center point on the way to a 4-1 victory.
Joey Mormina scored from about 10 feet inside the blue line with 3:57 left in the first period to break a 1-1 tie. Mormina's goal helped end a streak in which the Pirates went 6-0-1-1 to move from last place to third in the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division.
"That first one was just a shot from the point," Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. "I thought we could have battled harder."
Late in the second period, Alex Grant fired a shot from the same position, creating a rebound that set up Eric Tangradi for an easy goal from close range.
Edwards, however, said the problem was what happened before Grant's shot.
"We had the puck behind our net," Edwards said. "We gave it right back to them, trying to clear it and it ends up in our net.
"You can't do that against a good team."
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton dominated the first 38½ minutes.
"Both special teams were something we needed to get better at," Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Coach John Hynes said after the Penguins went 2 for 5 with the man advantage and killed all five Portland power plays. "It wasn't just the power play. It's a credit to both units."
Until the Pirates took the final two shots of the second period, including one on a power play, the Penguins had a 29-8 shot advantage.
The Pirates struggled in the second of seven straight road games. They play three games this weekend and next weekend, including tonight's game in Hershey.
"It's a good challenge for us," Edwards said. "It's against hard teams, with some travel. It's all part of this league.
"We have to play better than we did tonight."
Portland broke in front just 3:27 into the game on an outstanding solo effort from Brett MacLean.
MacLean received the puck in the right corner of the defensive zone and carried it all the way to the left circle. Using Mormina as a screen, he beat Brad Thiessen with a low wrist shot.
Defenseman Dean Arsene was credited with an assist.
"It was just a shot through a screen," Edwards said. "One of the things for us was putting pucks on the net, which we didn't do.
"We didn't push them at all. We were on the perimeter all night."
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton answered at 11:23. Jason Williams sent the puck from the top of the right circle to the right of the goal, where Ben Street redirected it behind Pirates goalie Curtis McElhinney.
McElhinney finished with 31 saves.
The Pirates had a 9-6 advantage in third-period shots.
"I would have liked to have seen that effort in the first 40 minutes," Edwards said.
Geoff Walker scored an empty-net goal with 6.4 seconds left.