Coming into the week, Penguins head coach John Hynes told the local media that recalled RW Beau Bennett needed to “show no doubt” that he was an NHL player before he could get another shot at the next level.
He felt that he responded well to that challenge this weekend.
“You always want to play your best, especially coming back from an injury you want to make sure you’re not playing catch up from a mental standpoint. It was a good weekend and to be a part of a weekend sweep is pretty fun,” Bennett said.
Bennett finished the night with four assists, including on three straight goals by the Pens to help tally an insurmountable lead on the visiting Syracuse Crunch. He also notched an assist in WBS’s OT win over Hershey on Friday night. He did not participate in the Penguins 6-4 win on the road against Binghamton Saturday night.
For the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the weekend was certainly one to remember. The Pittsburgh affiliate ripped off three straight victories to take a 2 point lead in the East division, starting with the come from behind victory in overtime against the division leading Bears followed by the win over the Senators.
The momentum carried over into Sunday evening, as the Pens held off a late rally from the visiting Syracuse Crunch in overtime, 5-4.
Through the first period, a busy Syracuse penalty kill faced 5 power play chances from the Pens. The home team could not capitalize on the opportunities, and the period ended in a scoreless tie.
Things would rev up in the second period. Despite being outshot 13-4, the Crunch found their way onto the board first. Just two minutes into the period, ‘Cuse LW Dalton Smith nailed one past Pens goaltender Eric Hartzell. It was his fifth goal of the season, tying him with Jonathan Marchessault for the most on the squad.
It didn’t take the baby Pens long to answer back. Just over a minute later, Jayson Megna received a backhand pass from Andrew Ebbett from behind the net and tipped it past Andrei Vasilevskiy for his fifth on the season to tie the game at 1-1.
After a goal from Crunch LW Tanner Richard, the Penguins finally cashed in on their next power play opportunity with Taylor Chorney chipping in to even the score once again. They would open up a 4-2 lead early in the third period after an early power play goal from Pouliot and an even strength goal from Megna at the 5:04 mark.
The Crunch were able to tie things up at 4-4 late in regulation, putting the Pens in their second extra period game of the weekend. Just like the result on Friday against Hershey, the trigger happy Pens came through just three minutes in when Jean-Sebastien Dea came down center ice, received a pass from D Brian Dumoulin from the left corner, and put the puck past Vasilevskiy’s pad hand for the win.
“We have a lot of depth and all of our lines can create and capitalize on chances,” Dea said in the locker room. “We try to use our assets throughout the game and we showed that we can be a good team this weekend.”
With the win, the Penguins improved to 4-1 in overtime games and 8-5-1 overall.
Despite his team almost blowing a two goal lead, Penguins head coach John Hynes shared the same mentality he did in the team’s victory Friday night against Hershey.
“I thought our discipline was real good. The difference (from Saturday) was that we didn’t hold on late with the lead but the fact that we had the lead late in the game with what we were going to have to face, I thought we did a pretty good job of it,” Hynes said.
“At the end of the day, we found a way to win, and that’s the most important thing.”
Hynes commented on Megna’s high level of play, which includes 4 goals and an assist over the three-game weekend.
“If you look at his game, his speed is a factor as well as his penalty kill, and on top of that he’s scoring goals. He’s showing at both levels that he’s a guy that can put the puck in the net.”
On Bennett’s play tonight: “He was a difference maker, and that’s what you want from him,” Hynes said postgame. “You can see that he’s getting his game back. That’s what you have to do in his situation. When you come down you have to play to your strengths and I would say that he did that this weekend.”
Bennett further backed this up, but gave his teammates a lot of credit for finishing the opportunities he helped make for them.
“There’s a lot of guys that could be playing up there (Pittsburgh) too and we were happy to get some offensive production after that weekend at Norfolk.”
In regards to his knee, Bennett said “I felt good from the get go on Friday and I felt good tonight as well within my limits. It held up all weekend with some general soreness with my first two games back. If I get the call, I’ll be ready.”
The Penguins will have a 5 day layoff period before they take on their regional rival Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, Nov. 14 at 7:05. The two teams have split the season series so far, with WBS picking up a 2-1 overtime win last time around.