Sill Strikes Gold, Penguins 'Slash' Their Way Back To St. John's

Saturday, May 31, 2014
The Penguins force Tuesday's Game Six. Photo credit: @ItsJacki
Down 2-1 heading into the third period, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins had a gut check. Either score a goal in the final twenty minutes of regulation and try to come back and win Game Five or the season is over.

Fortunately for the Pens and their home fans at Mohegan Sun Arena, they pulled it out with a great effort in the third period. The game-tying goal by Chuck Kobasew with 7:30 left really explains as to how the Penguins played in the final frame - relentless.

After a long shift in the offensive zone, the IceCaps iced the puck to alleviate the pressure. They took their timeout. The Penguins won the ensuing face-off and the shooting gallery began. After a few blocked shots, an IceCaps forward broke his stick. The IceCaps had two or three good chances to clear the zone and get the much-needed line change but credit Brian Dumoulin and Simon Despres on  some excellent keep-ins to keep the pressure on.

Despres weaved around the forward without a stick, goes cross-ice to Andrew Ebbett who fakes a shot and sends a pass back across the ice to Chuck Kobasew, who with 90% of the net to shoot at finishes the play and sends the Mohegan Sun Arena into a frenzy. That sequence will surely be available in the highlights package.

The IceCaps didn't go into self destruct mode after the goal. Goaltender Michael Hutchinson lost his cool 19 seconds after Kobasew tied things up and punched Bobby Farnham in a goal mouth scrum. The IceCaps killed off the penalty and mounted a pretty heavy attack in the final two minutes.

The real heroes of tonight's game were the Penguins 4th line forwards of Farnham, Zach Sill and Harry Zolnierczyk. With everyone thinking Game Five was headed to overtime, Zolnierczyk and Sill had other plans. The two combined on great work along the end boards to dig out a loose puck, when eventually Zolnierczyk found a way to get the puck to Sill, who with a defender on his back drove to net and got a bit of a bounce to score his first of the postseason. The puck appeared to bounce off the post, then off the back of Hutchinson and in with 15.8 seconds left in regulation.

Things got interesting off the ensuing face-off as with the IceCaps goaltender pulled, Kobasew skated a puck into the empty net with 6.1 seconds left. The empty net goal made it 4-2 but before Kobasew could get to teammate Andrew Ebbett, Ebbett was plunked with a blatant high-stick from a frustrated Will O'Neill.

A line brawl ensued with 120 penalty minutes issued amongst all those who were on the ice. After things calmed down and Hutchinson returned to the IceCaps net, Penguins goaltender Peter Mannino skated to the blue line, lifted his mask and seemingly challenged Hutchinson to a center ice meeting. Hutchinson didn't leave his crease and the game ended after the Pens controlled the final face-off.

A 4-2 win in Game Five to send the series back to St. John's. The Pens went 0-for-7 on the power play but somehow manage to claw their way back and send the series to a 6th game, now trailing the IceCaps three games to two in the best-of-seven series. Game Six is Tuesday night at the Mile One Centre in Newfoundland.

Much like in Games Three and Four earlier this week, the Penguins came out with the edge in the first period and got the game's first power play 7:14 into the contest. The Pens didn't score on the man advantage, but looked a lot better than it had in the previous four games of the series.

Then the referees continued to make themselves noticed, whistling three more slashing minors - all on the Pens - in a span of 2:14. A breakdown of the penalties below.

The call on Ebbett is an easy one to make, with the Penguins on the power play and the penalty coming away from the play. The slash assessed to Zach Sill while the Penguins forward was forechecking on the penalty kill is about as soft as they come. The slash assessed to Philip Samuelsson had to be called because he broke Jason Jaffray's stick on a mini-breakaway. Literally, a tough break for the Penguins.

The result: two separate 5-on-3 power plays for the IceCaps. The Pens killed off all but nine seconds of the two-man advantage, but the IceCaps eventually got one past Peter Mannino to put the IceCaps in front. Will O'Neill got a shot off through traffic that eluded Mannino for O'Neill's 2nd tally of the postseason. 1-0 IceCaps.

Then you had John Albert deliberately knock the IceCaps net off its moorings with the Penguins buzzing in the offensive zone. No call. But the makeup call came soon after when Ben Chairot was called for a very questionable charging minor for hitting the much smaller Brian Gibbons.

The inconsistent officiating continued in the middle frame, but not before a snipe of all snipes by Spencer Machacek tied the game at 1-1. Conor Sheary pounced on a neutral zone turnover and quickly fed Machacek, who broke in 2-on-1 with Mike Carman. Machacek looked off the defender and picked the top right corner, blocker side on Hutchinson, to even the game 3:49 into the middle frame.

There was also a good physical battle between Simon Despres and IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray, who seemed to be on the bad end of a lot of hits tonight. Despres planted Jaffray behind the net and the IceCaps forward challenged Despres to a fight. Despres obliged and landed a big right on Jaffray, leading him to fall.

The IceCaps re-gained the lead at 2-1 after another questionable call by the referees, who sent Scott Harrington to the box for a tripping call that was hardly a bad play by the rookie defenseman.

It seemed more like a drawn call by Carl Klingberg, but nonetheless the IceCaps power play cashed in on a Patrice Cormier deflection of a Will O'Neill point shot with 5:55 left in the middle frame, setting the stage for the Penguins third period comeback and last minute triumph.


No surprises in net as Peter Mannino and Michael Hutchinson got the start in net for their respective teams. Mannino was backed up in net by Matt Murray.

No changes on defense, either.

The big surprise (if you didn't follow my tweets on Friday) was the return of Andrew Ebbett and Chuck Kobasew up front for the Penguins. Carter Rowney and Tom Kuhnhackl were scratched to make room for them.

I'm a bit surprised to see Adam Payerl on the scratched list for a second straight game, although it wouldn't surprise me if he was trying to play through an injury and isn't at 100%.

Scratches for the Penguins: Eric Hartzell, Jeff Deslauriers, Reid McNeill, Nick D'Agostino, Harrison Ruopp, Nick Drazenovic, Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney, Dominik Uher, Adam Payerl, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson and Josh Archibald.


Gibbons - Ebbett - Kobasew
Zlobin - Megna - Kostopoulos
Sheary - Carman - Machacek
Zolnierczyk - Sill - Farnham

Dumoulin - Despres
Samuelsson - Mikkelson
Harrington - Goers

Mannino - Murray


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