Wilkes-Barre, PA - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender Scott Munroe shut out the Connecticut Whale for the third time on the season, and second in just over a week, Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, making 27 saves in a 3-0 Penguin win.
Munroe also blanked the Whale last Friday night in Hartford, with 32 stops in another 3-2 verdict.
Rookie defenseman Simon Despres had the game-winning goal and an assist for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which also got goals from Bryan Lerg and Geoff Walker. Chad Johnson made 24 saves in the Whale net, including one on a Nick Petersen penalty shot at the end of the second period.
The loss dropped the Whale to 35-25-7-5 on the year and, combined with Adirondack’s 5-3 win at Albany, kept Connecticut’s magic number for clinching a playoff spot at three points.
The only goal of a fast-paced first period came at the 12:16 mark, when Despres scored his fifth of the year for the Penguins. Cal O’Reilly fed a pass out of the right-wing corner to Despres high in the slot, and he snapped a shot past Johnson, who was screened by Penguin forward Paul Thompson.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had a big early edge in shots in the first, but by the end of the period, the Whale had an 11-10 advantage in that department.
The Penguins upped their lead to 2-0 only 49 seconds into the second frame, as Lerg scored on a breakaway for his 26th of the season. A Kris Newbury pass got away from Brendan Bell at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton blueline to allow Lerg to break in alone, and he slipped a backhander just past Johnson’s left skate. Then, on their first power play of the game, the Penguins scored again at 5:18, only eight seconds after Andre Deveaux was whistled for hooking. Former Whale Jason Williams found Walker with a seeing-eye pass from the right-wing boards, and Johnson had no chance to stop Walker’s tap-in from the left side of the goalmouth.
Johnson prevented the Penguins from coming out of the second period up 4-0, when he stopped Petersen’s penalty shot opportunity with no time left on the clock. Referee Graham Skilliter awarded Petersen the penalty shot as time expired, when he was hooked off the puck on a break-in by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. It was the second penalty shot Johnson has faced on the year, and he has stopped both.
The Whale were not able to build on that effort, despite outshooting the Penguins 12-6 in a scoreless third period.
The game featured the pro debuts of forwards Christian Thomas, a second-round New York Ranger draft pick in 2010, and Shane McColgan, who was taken in the fifth round by the Rangers in 2011. Both players joined the Whale Wednesday from the Canadian Junior ranks, Thomas from the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals and McColgan from the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
The Whale finish up a three-game weekend Sunday in Hershey against the Bears (5:00 PM faceoff, “The Rock” 106.9 WCCC-FM, www.ctwhale.com). The Whale’s last home game of the regular season is this Friday, April 13, as the Manchester Monarchs return for a 7:00 game. That is Fan Appreciation Night, as the first 5,000 fans receive a green Whale bracelet presented by Xfinity. Also, $5 Family Value combo meals are available. For tickets visit www.ctwhale.com. Presented by the Connecticut Lottery, sponsored by Aetna, CBT and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
Connecticut Whale 0 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3
Saturday, April 7, 2012 - Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza