ALBANY, N.Y. — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were not going to surrender their winning streak meekly.
Despite falling behind 3-0 to the Albany River Rats, the Penguins mounted a furious comeback, scoring twice 94 seconds apart in the third period and pressuring the net to the final horn before losing 3-2 Friday at Times Union Center.
Danny Richmond scored a stride outside the slot with 9:19 to play in the third, averting what would have been Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first shutout of the season. When a Deryk Engelland shot got redirected off Jean-Michel Daoust’s boot and past Albany goalie Justin Peters barely a minute and a half later, a dispiriting rout became a race to the finish.
With goalie Adam Berkhoel pulled from the net for the final 1:39, the Penguins kept Albany pinned in its end, even enjoying a 6-on-4 skater advantage the final 26 seconds after River Rats captain Tim Conboy got sent off for tripping. But the last-gasp flurry in front of Peters couldn’t net a tying goal.
“It shows a lot about our team,” said Jeff Taffe, the AHL’s reigning player of the week. “Even after going down 3-0, our guys battled to the last second.”
The loss snaps a five-game winning streak for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (21-12-1-1), coming off a 10-2 December. Chris Minard’s seven-game goal-scoring streak, a franchise record, also came to an end.
The Penguins, averaging five goals a game during its streak, had the better scoring chances throughout, and outshot the River Rats 35-20 – including 11-4 in a dominating third period.
“You try to play a game where you carry the play,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “For the last 30 minutes, 25 minutes, we certainly had that situation.”
But for the first 40-plus minutes the Penguins couldn’t convert, whether it be center Mark Letestu firing a slap shot off the cross bar, or Luca Caputi clanging a wrister off the post.
“They came hard at us,” Albany coach Jeff Daniels said. “I thought they were a little quicker on the puck, quicker making decisions with the puck, but as the game went on, we got some goals at the right times.”
The River Rats (13-17-3-2, last in the East Division) opened the scoring with 2:15 to go in the first, as Jakub Petruzalek one-timed a pass from Michael Ryan, beating Berkhoel low from the left face-off circle.
Albany took a 2-0 lead with 3:21 gone in the second, after defenseman Conboy hit Nicolas Blanchard emerging from the penalty box for a breakaway. Berkhoel made the initial sprawling save, but laid helpless as Mike Angelidis swooped in uncontested to put away the rebound.
The River Rats stretched the lead to three midway through the second period when defenseman Brett Carson wristed a shot from the right point through traffic that appeared to deflect off the muck in front.
“I don’t think the oddsmakers would have had us winning every game from here on out,” Bylsma said. “The great thing about playing 80 games is you don’t have to wait too long to get your next chance.”
Not too long at all.
The Penguins return home tonight when they face the Houston Aeros at Wachovia Arena. Face-off is set for 7:05.
7:05 p.m. today
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