Thiessen Shuts Out Checkers, Series Even 1-1

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Ryan Craig's empty net goal sealed the deal on the 3-0 win tonight.
Tonight was one of the best performances I have seen in a long, long time from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. They skated hard, hit everything that moved and just flat out out-worked the Charlotte Checkers tonight en route to a 3-0 win in Game 2. The series is now tied one game apiece and heads to North Carolina for three straight games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The WBS Penguins went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen tonight and it worked quite well. Ben Street, who didn't return after the first period in Game 1, didn't play tonight. Nick Petersen reportedly had left the team to attend a funeral and missed tonight's game. Jesse Boulerice was a surprise late scratch. Paul Thompson and Carl Sneep got in their first AHL playoff game tonight and I thought both played well, especially Thompson who got an assist on the game winning goal.

Recap and final thoughts after the jump.

The Penguins came out flying tonight and the crowd, listed at 4,520, got behind their team early and were loud all night. Everyone seemed to be getting in on big hits and although the period ended in a scoreless tie, both Brad Thiessen and Mike Murphy made a ton of saves on a combined 28 shots after the first 20 minutes. The Penguins had to kill off four Checkers power plays in the first and did a great job on the PK all night.

Those in attendance could tell that the first goal tonight would be huge and looking back that's all the Pens really needed. Paul Thompson found himself on a line with Ryan Craig and Brett Sterling and made the most of the opportunity. He fed a nice pass to Corey Potter whose shot was blocked and went in between the face-off circles to Sterling who buried one past Murphy 15:17 into the middle frame. The Pens got 10 more saves from Thiessen and held onto the 1-0 lead heading into the final period.

The Penguins never left their foot off the gas and got an early third period goal from Chris Collins on an excellent set up by Keven Veilleux. I think he could get some serious looks from the NHL club in training camp next season with the way he has played the last 20 games or so. A great turnaround from a slow start this season. The Pens would keep battling and when the Checkers pulled their goalie in the waning moments of the third period, Craig put the icing on the cake with his empty net goal at 19:17. Penguins win 3-0. Series tied 1-1.

Final Thoughts
The WBS Penguins are still having trouble on the power play against the Checkers and are a combined 2 for 13 with the man advantage. But they have done great work on the penalty kill, including tonight's perfect 7 for 7 on kills. Special teams become even more important in the playoffs and while the Pens aren't tearing it up on the power play, at least they're solid on the penalty kill. I'm sure head coach John Hynes doesn't want the team taking this many penalties but he's got to be impressed with the way his penalty killers played tonight.

With Street, Petersen and Boulerice sitting out tonight Paul Thompson made his case for why he should stay in the lineup when these guys (namely Street and Petersen) are ready to play again. Thompson and Marshall were the 10th and 11th forwards tonight and both played really well tonight. Coach Hynes will have some decisions to make before Monday night's Game 3.

Game 3 is Monday night in Charlotte. I'll have a pregame report on Monday afternoon and if any team news breaks tomorrow I'll put that up as soon as it happens.


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