Penguins push Crunch to the brink

( — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins rode the back of their specials teams and a shutout effort from goaltender Matt Murray in defeating the Syracuse Crunch, 4-0, on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

The Penguins’ power play led the offensive charge in the opening frame, finding the back of the net three times before the intermission. With Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on the man-advantage right off the hop, Jayson Megna put his team ahead, 1-0, at 2:32 when he camped out atop the Syracuse crease to knock in a loose rebound chance.

With less than four minutes to go in the period, Carter Rowney converted during 5-on-4 play for the Penguins, skating into the slot to redirect a shot from the right point by Josh Archibald past the glove of Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton made it a trio of power-play goals right before the break as Tom Kostopoulos was left alone in front of the crease to collect a bouncing puck. The ensuing centering pass from the Penguins captain would bank off the skate of a Syracuse defenseman and slide across the goal line with just one second remaining in the first.

The score would stand until there remained 3:50 left in regulation and Kasperi Kapanen skated into the Crunch zone on a partial breakaway. The backchecking Syracuse defender was able to knock the puck off the stick off of Kapanen only to see it find a sliver of space between the left post and the skate of Gudlevskis.

Murray stopped all 27 shots he faced for the first postseason shutout of his pro career. Gudlevskis made 25 saves on 29 shots in net for the Crunch.

The best-of-five series heads to Syracuse for Game 3 on Wednesday.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Series “D” (best-of-5)
4-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. 5-Syracuse Crunch

Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 24 – W-B/SCRANTON 5, Syracuse 1
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 25 – W-B/SCRANTON 4, Syracuse 0
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 29 – W-B/Scranton at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 30 – W-B/Scranton at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., May 2 – Syracuse at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
   *if necessary… All times Eastern