The Eastern Conference Finals got underway at Mile One Centre in St. John’s on Saturday night, and the visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins came away with a 3-2 win over the IceCaps to jump out to the lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 2 is set for Sunday night (7:30 NT/6:00 ET).
Wilkes-Barre, coming off Wednesday’s heart-stopping 5-4 win over Providence in Game 7 of their conference semifinal series, got the first goal of this series 7:02 into the opening period as Brian Gibbons raced down the left wing, waited out a defender and goaltender Michael Hutchinson, and feathered a pass through the top of the crease to Chuck Kobasew, who beat his man to the puck and knocked it home for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
St. John’s pulled even at 13:42 as Andrew Gordon picked up a carom off the end boards, dragged the puck out front and snapped a quick shot over the shoulder of Peter Mannino to make it 1-1. It was Gordon’s seventh goal of the postseason.
Conor Sheary extended his point-scoring streak to seven games at 2:32 of the second period, knocking in a loose puck after Hutchinson couldn’t control Sheary’s initial shot. It was the sixth playoff goal for Sheary, putting the Penguins back in front, 2-1.
With 5:24 left in the second, shortly after their fourth successful penalty kill, Wilkes-Barre made it 3-1 as Tom Kostopoulos took a feed from former IceCap Spencer Machacek and beat Hutchinson blocker-side for his fourth goal of the postseason.
Gordon got his second goal of the night and eighth of the playoffs at 5:31 of the third period, blasting home a one-timer off a John Albert faceoff win to cut the IceCaps’ deficit to 3-2.
St. John’s outshot the Penguins 12-6 in the third period, but could not get the equalizer before time ran out.
Mannino, who played 10 games for the IceCaps in 2011-12, made 31 saves to improve to 8-4 on the postseason. Hutchinson (7-4) stopped 29 of 32 shots in the loss.
St. John’s finished 0-for-5 on the power play; Wilkes-Barre was 0-for-2.
Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
4-St. John’s IceCaps vs. 6-W-B/Scranton Penguins | Series Snapshot
Game 1 – Sat., May 24 – W-B/Scranton 3, ST. JOHN’S 2
Game 2 – Sun., May 25 – W-B/Scranton at St. John’s, 6:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 28 – St. John’s at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 4 – Thu., May 29 – St. John’s at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., May 31 – St. John’s at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Tue., June 3 – W-B/Scranton at St. John’s, 6:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 4 – W-B/Scranton at St. John’s, 6:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern