HOUSTON – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins got quite the present from their NHL parent team Sunday when Chris Minard and Janne Pesonen were assigned by Pittsburgh.
After a combined three games in the NHL, the pair joined the team for the back end of their two-game sojourn through Texas. And the timing couldn’t have been better.
Minard, Pesonen and Jeff Taffe made quick work of the Aeros, teaming up for eight points in a 4-3 win over Houston, which before Sunday had been perfect at Toyota Center.
Minard scored three goals, Taffe finished with three assists and Pesonen added a pair of helpers for the Penguins, who won both games in the Lone Star State while improving to 5-3-0-1 on the season.
“We knew coming in tonight that it would be a tight checking game, and that we really needed to capitalize on our chances,” said Minard. “Both guys (Taffe and Pesonen) … probably don’t deserve to be in this league, but they are for some reason.
“When they use their play-making ability that they have, and as long as I can find some open ice, things are going to work out for us.”
And although he was not named one of the game’s three stars, goalie John Curry turned in his second strong performance, making 34 saves, including 26 in the final 40 minutes.
“He really makes the games better for us,” said Taffe, who extended his points streak to five games (six goals, five assists). “He made a few huge saves out there tonight and was really a difference-maker for this team most of the night.”
Minard got things going 70 seconds into the second period when he snapped a shot over Aeros goalie Nolan Schaefer’s glove to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Dustin Jeffrey and Pesonen assisted on the goal, but the Aeros took advantage of a turnover just under three minutes later and tied the game.
Jesse Schultz grabbed a loose puck and fed it ahead for Krys Kolanos, who sped around a defending Ben Lovejoy.
Kolanos didn’t miss and snapped a shot between Curry’s legs at 4:02 for the Aeros, who outshot the Penguins 13-6 in the second period.
Curry, though, made two good stops on John Lammers less than four minutes later to set the stage for a pair of back-breaking goals for the Penguins, who improved to 2-0 all time in Houston.
First it was Tim Wallace, who scored his second goal of the season after taking a nice feed from Taffe and snapped a shot over Schaefer’s glove at 9:08.
Then, 6:40 later, Minard scored his second of the night when he teamed up with Taffe and Pesonen.
“I think (Minard and Pesonen) were told after the game in St. Louis last night,” Taffe said about his linemates’ demotion. “It’s easy to come down here with a bad attitude, but they are doing the exact opposite and it helps out our team tremendously.”
The Aeros worked quickly to tie the game early in the third period.
First, defenseman Jon Insana scored at 3:12 to get Houston within a goal, and Marco Rosa made it 3-3 just 17 seconds later when he beat Curry after taking a feed from rookie John Lammers.
But on the ice for the next shift was the line that was apparently destined to win the game.
Less than 30 seconds after the Aeros grabbed all the momentum, Minard silenced the Aeros’ season-high crowd of 7,752 with his 10th goal of the season.
“It’s a good feeling and it probably wasn’t my best game out there,” added Minard, who was on the ice for two of the Aeros goals. “But I was still able to get three pretty good shots away for the goals.”