The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins franchise has a reputation of not going down without a fight, and they showed it again on Saturday night.
Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos scored the game-winning goal and blocked a Colin Miller slap shot at the horn, thwarting a wild Manchester flurry and preserving Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 2-1 victory in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Monarchs still lead the series, two games to one, with Game 4 set for Monday. Eleven times since 2004, an AHL team has won a best-of-seven after losing the first two games, but five of those comebacks were staged by the Penguins (2004 vs. Bridgeport, 2005 vs. Binghamton, 2006 vs. Bridgeport, 2011 vs. Norfolk, 2013 vs. Providence).
Bryan Rust opened the scoring 6:22 into the game, taking a pass from Conor Sheary and firing a shot from the slot past Monarchs goaltender Jean-Francois Berube. Rust was making his first appearance since Apr. 12 after being sidelined for the last four weeks by injury.
The Penguins doubled their lead on a power play with 6:33 remaining in the second period. Positioned on the goal line to the right of Berube, Kostopoulos fed a pass to Andrew Ebbett that kicked back to the captain, and Kostopoulos roofed it over Berube’s shoulder for his second goal of the playoffs and a 2-0 advantage.
The Monarchs pressed late for the equalizer late but could not get another one past Murray (4-2), who finished with 29 saves.
Berube (5-3) stopped 18 of 20 shots on the night.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton improved to 3-0 at home this postseason, while Manchester fell to 0-3 on the road.
Eastern Conference Semifinals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
1-Manchester Monarchs vs. 4-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Game 1 – Wed., May 6 – MANCHESTER 4, W-B/Scranton 3 (3OT)
Game 2 – Thu., May 7 – MANCHESTER 5, W-B/Scranton 2
Game 3 – Sat., May 9 – W-B/SCRANTON 2, Manchester 1
Game 4 – Mon., May 11 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 5 – Tue., May 12 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 15 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sat., May 16 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern