When one considers the proximity between their respective cities, it’s not much of a surprise that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have made Giant Center their unofficial home away from home. On Saturday night at the aforementioned venue, the visitors continued their recent mastery over the Hershey Bears and skated away with a convincing 3-1 win.
The Penguins, who with this victory have now won six straight outings against their Keystone State neighbors to the north, improved to 3-2-1-1 on the season while the Bears, who are a perfect 4-0 on the road, slipped to 0-1-1-0 at home with the setback.
Brian Gibbons, who scored the baby Pens’ first goal in their 3-2 loss to the Bears earlier in the season at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in the only prior meeting between the clubs on this young season, replicated that feat at 3:36 of the first period by deflecting a Jason Williams point shot by Hershey goaltender Braden Holtby while the visitors were on a power play.
The first period foretold the futility that the Bears would endure in this encounter as they failed to establish a prolonged presence in the Pens’ zone despite their 17 shots on net; Hershey also short-circuited one of their two extra-man advantages by taking a penalty of their own.
Holtby, who had a shaky outing in the Bears’ home opener a week ago, kept his club in the game in the first period by stopping 13 shots, including close-range bids from Gibbons (right pad save) and Colin McDonald (left pad, shorthanded) in the latter stages of the stanza.
Early in the second period, the Pens were pestering Holtby again, but he was up to the challenge and made a couple of early saves with some help from defenseman Patrick McNeill, who swept a puck out of danger when Holtby left a rebound in his crease.
However, the pesky Pens eventually doubled their lead when Penguins’ defenseman Simon Despres made it 2-0 at 7:19. Despres’ dart, which occurred with the teams skating at four aside, came only 29 seconds after Graham Mink derailed a Bears’ power play by committing a tripping infraction.
Bryan Lerg lengthened the Pens lead to 3-0 at 10:45 of the second period when he finished off a picturesque give-and-go sequence with Paul Thompson.
Hershey captain Boyd Kane thwarted Brad Thiessen’s bid for a shutout late in the third period by canning his second goal in as many days to make it 3-1 with a power play marker, but Kane’s caper would be all of the offense his club could muster on the evening.
Notes- Thiessen pitched a 26-save shutout on Friday night in Springfield against the Falcons.
With Dany Sabourin still on recall to the Washington Capitals, Holtby made his third straight start for the Bears.
The Bears scratched defensemen Danny Richmond and Brett Fleming and forwards Maxime Lacroix, Joel Rechlicz, Ryan Potulny and Kyle Greentree.
The Bears have now given up the first goal of the game in their last two games after scoring the game-opening goals in the prior four contests.
Hershey’s first period blanking was the first time season they failed to score in the first period and also marked the first time this season that they faced a deficit after 20 minutes of play.
Chris Bourque, who leads the league in shots on goal, registered only a single shot on net in this game, but did extend his point streak to six games with an assist on Kane’s goal, while his linemate Keith Aucoin saw his five-game point streak come to an end.