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12 May 2008

Baby Pens Are In The Conference Finals!


WILKES-BARRE, PA – A strong third period wasn’t enough to overcome a slow start, as the Portland Pirates posted a 3-2 win against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza.

The Pirates’ victory evened the best of seven series at one game apiece, with the next three games slated for Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

AHL All-Star Bobby Ryan netted two goals for the visitors, who snapped the Pens’ postseason winning streak at five games.

“We didn’t help ourselves in the first 40 minutes. They created a lot of momentum, got up by a couple of goals. We battled back but it was just one too many,” said head coach Todd Richards.

Pens’ captain Nathan Smith – who scored a pair of goals himself on Thursday - concurred with the coach’s assessment.

“They carried the play the first and second period, and that probably ended up being the difference in the game,” he said.

Portland came out strong in the opening period, controlling play in the Penguins end and peppering John Curry with 11 shots to just four by the hosts. The rookie netminder held the Pirates at bay until the 9:49 mark of the second frame.

With Ryan Stone off for goaltender interference, Andrew Ebbett tipped a Brian Salcido point shot that found the back of the net, snapping Curry’s shutout streak at just over 122 minutes.

Four minutes later, Ryan extended the lead to 2-0 with a great individual effort that saw Portland’s leading scorer deke Curry for his sixth goal of the postseason.

Smith got the Pens on the board shortly before intermission, taking a back door pass from Luca Caputi and redirecting the puck underneath the crossbar. That led to an all-out assault by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the third period, which saw the Penguins outshoot the Pirates 16-2.

However Ryan notched his second of the night – this one on the power play – with less than five minutes to play, before Smith countered with a power play tally of his own less than two minutes later.

“For 40 minutes they were clearly the better team. They were winning the races to loose pucks and there was a lot of motion in the offensive zone and in their D-zone, we ended up chasing a lot of times,” said Richards. “The goal at the end of the second kind of energized us a little bit. We got some life in the third, we got great opportunities to score. We gave up the power play goal, but our power play comes back and answers and gives us a chance in the final two and a half minutes or so.”

“The game kind of takes a different shape when they’re up and trying to protect a lead, and obviously we are trying to do everything we can to score a goal,” commented Smith. “Having said that I think that we did a lot better job of getting on pucks and things like that, we generated some chances. And that’s what we have to do early in Game Three. We have to get pucks behind their D, get a good forecheck going, and create some havoc down there and create some traffic in front of their goalie.”


WILKES-BARRE, PA – Dave Gove scored with less than seven minutes to play, and John Curry made 19 saves for his first career playoff shutout, as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins posted a 2-0 win against the Portland Pirates in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night. Game Two takes place at the Wachovia Arena on Thursday night at 7:05pm.

The combatants spent most of the first two periods feeling each other out, as the clubs combined for 25 shots through 40 minutes of play. The best scoring chance of that time period came when Nathan Smith dinged a shot off the cross bar during a shorthanded two on one early in the first period.

Things started to open up a bit for the Pirates in the third, as the visitors controlled play in the Penguins’ zone for several minutes, forcing head coach Todd Richards to call a timeout to rally the troops.

“I didn’t like the way we managed the puck in the third, early in the third. Some turnovers, we weren’t able to execute, didn’t get pucks out,” said Richards. “But the guys battled and found a way to win. John Curry made some big saves, and again we had guys paying the price, blocking shots, diving in front of those pucks to try to get a piece of it.”

Those efforts paid off when Gove squeaked a shot between Jean-Sebastien Aubin’s pads during a scramble in front of the Portland net with 6:57 to play.

“[Ryan Stone] got the puck behind the net. I saw him look at me and I just went to the net,” said Gove, who picked up his second goal of the playoffs. “First shot wasn’t the shot I wanted to get off, but it came right back to me. I was able to put it on my backhand. It had eyes and went to the net, it was a garbage goal that went right through his legs, but we’ll take it.”

Ryan Lannon made sure the victory was in the Pens’ pocket with a looping empty net tally from about 150 feet.

“Lannon, he’s like a putter playing golf out there. I think he read the green right and it was a sharp break, right to left, and he got it to go in,” laughed Richards.

“I was just trying to get the puck out. I was on my backhand and I was just trying to get it as high and hard off the glass as I could. It started off going straight down the ice, then I don’t know if it hit a bump of something and started curving,” Lannon said. “It was nice to score, but at that point I think the game was over.”

Curry was solid in net, recording the first Penguins shutout since April 25, 2006 against Bridgeport.

“It’s not easy for a goaltender to go through a game and not get a lot of action,” said Richards. “They did have traffic, so he had to be on top of his game there.”

NOTES: The game was delayed about 15 minutes when referee Francois St. Laurent suffered a leg injury early in the first period. Dean Morton, who is scheduled to call Game Two, was in the arena and suited up to fill in.

Here is the AHL bracket:

Can you believe this? Penguin hockey can almost not get any better. Check out the similarities between the big club and the little one... The leading scorers in the NHL are Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby with 17 points, the AHL leading scorer is Tim Brent with 17 points. The big club is 10-1 so far and the little club is 8-2. They beat the Hershey Bears (Colorado Avalanche affiliate) four games to one and the Philadelphia Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers affiliate) four games to one. The big club beat the Ottawa Senators four games to none and the New York Rangers four games to one. We are in the process of shutting down the Philadelphia Flyers and the series is at two game to none Pens. The Baby Pens have a hot goalie in John Curry who has a GAA of 2.48 and a save% of .911. Fleury of the Big Pens has a GAA of 1.80 and a save% of .937. Oh, and one more thing to add to the eeriness... The Baby Pens finished the season first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 47-26-7 for 101 points, the Big Pens finished the season second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 47-27-8 for 102 points.

LET'S GO PENS! Both of them....


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