Fast Start Aids Pens in Game One Win

Saturday, May 25, 2013
In Syracuse, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins use a fast start and more commitment to team defense and shot blocking to take Game One from the Crunch by a final score of 4-2.

Alex Grant started and ended the goal scoring tonight. Chris Minella picked up his first AHL playoff goal. Derek Nesbitt added two assists. What I'm getting at is that it seems to be different guys stepping up every night.

"The further you go on in the playoffs, the more that guys have the opportunity to step up and guys get more comfortable," head coach John Hynes said. "As you continue to move on you're going to need to have a complete team effort. Not just your top guys scoring goals, but secondary scoring."

Derek Nesbitt came to the Penguins with 26 goals in the regular season and while he hasn't been lighting the lamp, he's been racking up assists. Nesbitt set up both of Grant's goals tonight, bringing his total to six helpers in the team's 11 playoff games.

"The shots are coming," Nesbitt said, adding he's getting his chances. "It's sitting around the net and just not going in."

Nesbitt's first assist came on his first shift of the night. He found Alex Grant on the point, who got a shot through Crunch netminder Cedric Desjardins. His second assist came on an important goal that came in the final minute of the second period, extending the Penguins lead to 4-2.

I also talked to Nesbitt about the team's commitment to shot blocking and team defense, which like in the 2nd round against Providence, eliminated those Grade A chances that the Crunch might've had in their first seven playoff games.

"Seeing a team like this, what they're willing to do," Nesbitt said about team shot blocking. "It's contagious. You see one guy do it, another guy wants to do it."

The Penguins look to take a 2-0 series lead back home to Wilkes-Barre tomorrow night in Game Two. Puck drops at 7 pm EDT. Full recap after the jump.

The Penguins came out ready to play and after a good shift by the third line, it was the Penguins top line that created the first big chances.

Trevor Smith and Chad Kolarik nearly combined for a goal, before Derek Nesbitt fed a good pass to Alex Grant on the point. Grant fired one on Cedric Desjardins that squeaked through the Crunch netminder, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead 1:55 into the contest.

The Crunch got their legs going as the first frame continued on, and tied the game with 3:19 left in the period when a point shot through traffic. was tipped in by Brett Connolly. EDIT: I originally had the goal as a Brendan Mikkelson point shot during my live in-game updates on Twitter, but an AHL  game sheet I was handed on press row  had the goal being credited to Connolly. A simple goal change.

The Penguins got the lead right back on the next shift. A tic-tac-toe passing play from Kolarik to Gibbons to Smith left Smith all alone at the top of the crease. Smith roofed one over Desjardins to restore the Penguins lead.

In the 2nd period, the Crunch tied it up at 2-2 with a Tyler Johnson power play goal at the 5:38 mark. From there, the Penguins continued to play their game, creating turnovers off the forecheck.

Chris Minella picked up a puck in the face-off circle and walked it into the slot, shooting and beating Desjardins to give the Pens a 3-2 lead. The play was a perfect example of the above statement re: Penguins playing their game.

The two teams traded power plays before Nesbitt again found  Grant in the last minute of the 2nd frame. Grant fired a shot that again trickled through Desjardins and found the back of the net, giving the Penguins a big goal and extending the game to a 4-2 lead heading into third period.

In the third period, the Crunch's frustration began to show, causing them to take some undisciplined penalties. The time spent in the offensive zone might have been lopsided towards the Crunch at even strength in the final frame, but more of the Penguins bend but not break defense and some timely saves in net by Brad Thiessen were too much for the Crunch to overcome tonight.

Might it have been a little rust from the Crunch with the layoff? An off-night for Crunch goaltender Cedric Desjardins? The Crunch have less than 24 hours to figure it out for Game Two. The Pens will look to continue to execute their game plan and play their game.


Brad Thiessen got the start in net for the Penguins against Cedric Desjardins for the Crunch.

Jayson Megna was out of the lineup for Game One and Chris Minella replaced him on the WBS 4th line. Replacing Megna on the PK was a combination of  Trevor Smith, Riley Holzapfel and Chris Collins.

Lines for Game One:




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