HERSHEY – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton could have picked a better time to play catch-up.
Playing their third game in three nights and their fourth in five, the Penguins spotted Hershey a two-goal lead en route to a 3-2 loss on Sunday afternoon at the Giant Center.
Kurtis McLean and Nathan Smith scored second-period goals for the Penguins, but it was Grant Potulny’s power-play marker early in the third that proved to be the difference for the Bears.
Potulny beat Penguins goalie John Curry with a slap shot from the left circle 48 seconds into the third.
“They scored a power-play goal and we didn’t,” said Penguins head coach Todd Richards. “We had a great opportunity – five-on-three for (57) seconds in the first period. I don’t think we registered a shot on goal. That was the difference in the game.
“It’s a one-goal game. They score a power-play goal, we don’t. We have a great opportunity early in the game and when you’re playing four-in-five it’s critical. … I shouldn’t say critical, but you have a big advantage when you have the lead.
“We tried to push, but we had nothing left in the tank. And, when you’re trying every shift and you don’t have anything left, it’s tough to generate offense. As the team defending, you get the puck on your stick and all you have to do is get it outside the blue line. That’s all you have to do.”
With the exception of a 6-minute, 12-second span early in the second, that’s exactly what Hershey did.
That and the fact that the Penguins’ power play was once again missing in action was pretty much all she wrote.
A night after going 3-for-9 with the man-advantage, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton failed on three first-period power plays, including the 57-second two-man advantage during which it failed to generate so much as a single shot.
Less than a minute after the Penguins saw their third opportunity on the power play expire, they found themselves down a goal when Hershey pest Louis Robitaille made a nice pass from behind the net through traffic to set up Jay Beagle’s fourth of the year at 12:37.
The Bears made it 2-0 early in the second with Kyle Wilson finishing off a two-on-one break with Jakub Klepis for his fourth of the season at 2:05.
The Penguins rallied on a pair of quick goals to tie the game at 2-2.
Just 26 seconds after Wilson scored, Kurtis McLean made it 2-1 by banking a shot off the inside of Frederic Cassivi’s pad at the right post.
Captain Nathan Smith tied the game at 2-2 by deflecting defenseman Deryk Engelland’s point shot past a screened Cassivi at 8:43.
“Usually it’s harder than it was,” said Penguins goalie John Curry, when asked about coming back on the road at the end of a four-in-five week. “We got two quick goals right away, so that helped. It gave us some momentum. Normally you have to play a lot harder to come back from a 2-0 deficit when you’ve played four games in five days. The guys played hard. We just came up short.”
Referee Nygel Pelletier, who usually calls a slew of penalties, put his whistle away after the first. He called three minors over the final two periods – all on the Penguins.
Dennis Bonvie was in the box for holding when Potulny scored the winner less than a minute into the third.
“It’s just tough,” said Curry, who made his second straight start. “We want to be winning right now and we think we have the team to do it. We’re just falling short.”
For more Penguins coverage, read Kelly Tomlinson’s blog at www.timesleader.com