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The Penguins came out flying tonight and barely allowed the Admirals out of their defensive zone for the first 7:24 of the game. Then, Ryan Craig gets whistled for holding and the momentum completely flips hands.
Former Penguin forward Michel Ouellet scored his 15th of the season, and the power play goal sparked the Admirals to a 1-0 lead after the first period.
The second period started off how the first ended, with Admirals pressure and Penguins penalty kills. The Pens started the period killing off Simon Despres' minor from the tail end of the first frame. They actually went on to be whistled for seven of the last eight penalties in the game. More on that later.
After killing off Alex Grant's tripping minor, the Penguins started to get more offensive pressure and created some scoring chances. Bryan Lerg was hooked on a fast break but was able to regain possession of the puck and set up Grant with a one-timer from the point. Lerg tipped it past Tokarski at the 14:23 mark and tied the game at one, silencing the crowd.
A bad bounce and a bad break resulted in the Admirals game winning goal in the third period. Brian Strait took his second minor of the period about halfway through the third period when he played a puck into the stands and was tagged for delay of game.
On the ensuing face-off, Cal O'Reilly broke his stick and the Admirals moved the puck around to Mark Barberio, the AHL's leader in scoring by a defenseman, who beat Munroe on a basically uncontested shot to give the Admirals the crucial 2-1 lead.
Penguins hit a couple posts in the third period, notably Jason Williams' shot that clanked off the bar. They did everything but score and fall 2-1. The streak continues for the Admirals, which is now up to 23 games.
The Pens outplayed the Admirals at even strength. Both Admirals goals tonight came on the power play. The Penguins got into penalty trouble against a team with the 2nd best power play in the league and it ultimately cost them the game.
They say the calls usually even themselves out but they certainly did not tonight. Interesting that the final power play count was seven for the Admirals and just two for the Penguins. The Thompson rough in a scrum started by the Admirals in Munroe's crease never should have resulted in a power play. Either send both guys that are roughing after the whistle or don't call anything.
The Petersen tripping was soft as well, especially considering the Admirals already were awarded three third period power plays in the first 11:56 of the period.
Either way, the Penguins hung right with the Admirals and were arguably the better team tonight. The Admirals wrapped up the top spot in the East and the Pens are pretty much slated for a match up with the Hershey Bears in the 4 vs. 5 battle. The Pens currently own a two point advantage over the Bears for the 4th spot.
Our monthly grades continue with March Grades and our WBS Player of the Month award coming before this weekend's games. If any news breaks before Thursday's morning practice, I'll have it. If nothing notable happens the Grades will go up tomorrow night.