MacDonald's OT Ripper Downs PenguinsNov 23, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (10-4-0-2) launched 43 shots at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (8-6-3-1) net on Friday night at the MassMutual Center and came away with a 4-3 overtime win, the third straight victory for the team.
The Springfield power play had a distinct statistical edge entering play against the Penguins, boasting a top-5 power play against a bottom-5 penalty kill. Those trends continued just 5:19 into the first as Harry Zolnierczyk fired home his fifth tally of the season to make it 1-0 T-Birds off a set-up from Jayce Hawryluk along the right wing wall. Ludwig Bystrom also picked up a secondary helper to round out the scoring details.
The Thunderbirds defense was stout in the opening half of the period, keeping the Penguins off the shot board until roughly the 12-minute mark of the frame. Sam Montembeault would have to be ready, though, as the Thunderbirds were forced to go two men down after back-to-back penalties to Matt Mangene and newly re-acquired Ryan Horvat. The T-Birds kill passed the test, with Montembeault stopping four shots in 1:09 of two-men down time. Springfield held an overall shot edge of 9-6 through 20 minutes with the 1-0 edge in tact heading into the first intermission.
The Thunderbirds then put together one of their most determined offensive periods in their history, but it would not come without some adversity. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would tie the score at the 4:21 mark of the frame on an unfortunate bounce off a Jake Horton shot block. Joseph Cramarossa was the benefactor to tie the game, 1-1.
Springfield would then be forced to go a man down, and the Penguins struck for the first time in 10 power play tries in the season series, with Teddy Blueger wristing a high glove offering past Montembeault to make it 2-1 Penguins at 7:54.
That lead would only last for 66 seconds. As the Thunderbirds began flexing their offensive muscles in the offensive zone, Paul Thompson sneaked his way into the high slot and took a slick, nearby feed from Joel Lowry over Penguins goalie Anthony Peters to tie the game at the nine-minute mark.
The ferocious forechecking pressure wore down the Penguins and eventually broke the 2-2 tie in the closing minutes of the second period. After some extended offensive zone time, the Thunderbirds got the puck to Henrik Borgstrom off the bench. From the high slot, Borgstrom fired a shot off the pad of Peters, which kicked to Blaine Byron. Byron scooped the rebound over the sprawled paddle of the goaltender to make it 3-2 at 18:36.
The Penguins would not go away in the third period and took advantage of a fluky bounce from Ethan Prow to tie the score at 3 with 8:34 to play in the final frame. Prow's wrist shot from the right point ticked off a body and eluded Montembeault in front of the goal.
The tie score carried into overtime after a long stretch of continuous hockey to close the final period of regulation. In the dying seconds of regulation, Sam Lafferty accidentally flipped a puck off the rink to set up the T-Birds with an overtime 4-on-3 power play. After Hawryluk made a diving play to keep the puck in the zone near the left point, Borgstrom drew the defense to him and set up Jacob MacDonald for a one-time missile that scorched the net to give the Thunderbirds the 4-3 win 1:16 into overtime.
Springfield's power play finished the night 2-for-4, while the penalty kill went 4-for-5. Peters finished with 39 saves in the losing effort, while Montembeault improved to 7-1 in his first eight starts with 25 stops in the win.
Up next on Saturday, the T-Birds get their first game of the season against the Syracuse Crunch. Syracuse has been one of the hottest teams in the AHL of late, going 7-0-1-0 in their last eight contests entering the weekend. The Crunch had started the season with a record of just 2-5-0-0 in their first seven games. Veteran Cory Conacher has led the way with 20 points in just 11 games for Syracuse.
The weekend concludes with another visit to Bridgeport, and the Thunderbirds will look to atone for a 5-2 loss on Nov. 3, which at the time was Springfield's first regulation loss of the season. Defenseman Devon Toews has paced the offense for the upstart Sound Tigers with 17 points in 18 games played. The Sound Tigers begin the weekend sitting four points ahead of Springfield in the Atlantic Division standings, but with the Thunderbirds holding three games in hand.
Springfield Thunderbirds fans are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com to learn more about 2018-19 Thunderbirds Season Ticket Memberships. Packages include a wide range of benefits, including the lowest prices for the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield. For more information or to order now, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625) or visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com.