(wbspenguins.com) — Defenseman Alex Grant netted his first two goals of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins started off the Eastern Conference Finals with a 4-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch at the Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter on Saturday night.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday (7 ET, AHL Live).
The Penguins got the early jump on the Crunch on Grant’s first of the night. A forechecking steal by Trevor Smith freed up the puck behind net for Derek Nesbitt, who found Grant streaking across the blue line. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton D-man blasted a one-timer from the far circle that squeezed through the pads of Syracuse goalie Cedrick Desjardins at 1:55 of the first.
The Crunch’s Brendan Mikkelson tied the score at 1-1 at 16:41 of the same period with a long wrist shot from the near point that sailed past a screened Brad Thiessen. Matt Taormina and J.T. Brown assisted.
On the next shift, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton got a chance to retake its lead with a 5-on-4 advantage and would do so 31 seconds after the Crunch’s game-tying goal. Some tic-tac-toe passing around the Syracuse zone saw Gibbons handle the puck on the far post and set up Smith in front for the easy tap-in and a 2-1 Penguins lead.
Syracuse would level the match once again 5:38 into the second period when, on the power play, Tyler Johnson picked the top left corner with a wrist shot from the near circle. Brett Connolly and Mark Barberio assisted on Johnson’s eighth goal of the postseason.
Christiaan Minella put the Penguins back on top, 3-2, less than four minutes later as he picked off an outlet pass in the high slot and rifled the puck under the glove of Desjardins. The unassisted marker was Minella’s first career AHL goal.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton extended its lead to 4-2 just 55.8 seconds before the second intermission with its second power-play goal of the game. Controlling the puck on the near-side blue line, Grant wheeled all the way to the far dot before releasing a shot that trickled through the pads of Desjardins.
Thiessen (6-1) made sure the lead stood with 24 saves, winning his fifth straight start. Desjardins finished the game with 19 saves on 23 shots and suffered his first loss of the playoffs (7-1).