Steve Wagner’s first-period hat trick staked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to an early 3-0 lead and the Penguins went on to a 6-3 win over Norfolk on Saturday night, capturing the teams’ East Division semifinal series in six games.
It’s the fourth time in franchise history that the Penguins have advanced after losing the first two games of a best-of-seven series, an accomplishment that has only been done 23 times total.
Wagner scored twice on the power play in the first 3:58 of the game, and later in the period became the first AHL defenseman to notch a playoff hat trick since Freddy Meyer scored three times for Philadelphia in a conference final game vs. Providence in 2005.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Blair Jones cut the deficit to 3-2 after the second period, but Joe Vitale restored Wilkes-Barre’s two-goal lead with 12:37 left in the third. James Wright’s power-play goal got the Admirals back within one but the Penguins iced the series with empty-netters by Tim Wallace and Zach Sill.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which finished with the best record in the AHL during the regular season, will face either Charlotte or Hershey in the division finals beginning Thursday night. The Checkers have a 3-2 lead in that series heading into Game 6 on Sunday.