WILKES-BARRE TWP. – The Albany River Rats scored a variety of goals during their matchup against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday. They scored a tying goal twice, a power play goal and a shorthanded tally. It was the Penguins, however, who scored the most important type – the game-winning goal.
Dustin Jeffrey and Paul Bissonnette each scored in the third period to give the Penguins a 4-3 win. The victory broke a two-game losing streak and allowed the Penguins to maintain their one-point lead over Bridgeport for second place in the East Division. The win came after Albany took a one-goal lead into the third period.
“They outworked us earlier in the game,” said Penguins interim head coach Todd Reirden. “But give credit to our guys for putting together a real strong third period. We’re the best third period team in hockey and we continued to show it tonight.”
For a while, it looked like Albany goaltender Justin Peters was going to do something to the Penguins that netminders did in the previous two contests – take over the game.
After Nick Johnson and Janne Pesonen each scored finesse-like goals to give the Penguins a lead, Albany made it disappear thanks to Brandon Sutter, who scored on the power play to tie the game and added a shorthanded goal two minutes later for a 3-2 River Rats lead early in the second period.
“He was a guy we definitely had trouble with,” Reirden said. “He understands and knows the right places to go, and he does it instinctively.”
The River Rats maintained their 3-2 lead for the rest of the second period into the first four minutes of the third, even though the Penguins picked up the intensity and shot at will on the Albany net. But Peters stopped everything that came his way.
“They don’t have a lot of skill but they take pride in their work ethic,” Bissonnette said. “I hate to say it, but they outworked us for two periods.”
After a crash-course from Reirden during the second intermission on the importance of going to work down low, the Penguins did exactly that in the third period.
First it was Luca Caputi, who dug out the puck from behind the net and swung it in front for Dustin Jeffrey to slam home.
The goal tied the game 3-3 and then it was time for two Penguins who normally don’t show up on the scoresheet to go to work.
Defenseman Deryk Engelland made a rare appearance in the offensive zone and found himself alone in the right faceoff circle with the puck.
It was decision time.
Engelland, who has one goal on the season, could try to blast a shot through Peters or he could take a shot that would generate a rebound.
“It probably wouldn’t go in the net,” Engelland said of the first option.
“But I saw Biss coming down the slot so I just tried to keep the shot low on the pads hoping for a rebound.”
The play worked and the rebound landed right on Bissonnette’s stick and into the net with the resulting shot.
The goal, which came at 14:26 in the third period, turned out to be the game-winner and was the result of two players (Engelland and Bissonnette) who have five goals between them.
“Two plugs,” Bissonnette said of himself and Engelland, who turned out to be the unlikely heroes in a lineup that featured a potent power play trio of Pesonen, Chris Minard and Jeff Taffe.
“They (Minard, Pesonen and Taffe) keep at it and tire their guys out for plumbers like us, so we can have the glory once in a while,” Bissonnette said.
Notes: J-P Cote, Dave Gove, Aaron Boogaard and Adam Henrich were scratched for the Penguins. … The Penguins travel to Bridgeport to take on the Sound Tigers tonight in a battle for second place.