WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Norfolk Admirals played without their top two scorers due to NHL recall and lost two of their biggest physical threats due to injury. Four players made their Admirals debut after being signed to tryout contracts just hours before game time and only two defensemen were in the lineup with more than ten games of American Hockey League experience.
Yet, Norfolk held the lead through much of the night and used a Radek Smolenak goal in overtime to top their East Division rivals, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 4-3 on Wednesday night at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza.
The Admirals (31-38-4-5) claimed a 1-0 lead 11:47 into the opening period. Pete Zingoni entered the attacking zone along the right wing and dropped a pass from the faceoff dot toward the top of the circle. Brandon Segal one-timed the shot low along the ice and past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender John Curry for his 23rd goal of the season.
Norfolk’s lead doubled late in the period with a power play goal. Geoff Kinrade sent a shot on goal from the left point that Curry blocked. The rebound went to the feet of Pete Zingoni near the bottom of the right circle, and Zingoni chipped a shot over the left leg of Curry at 18:07 for his seventh goal of the season.
The Penguins (47-24-3-3) cut Norfolk’s lead in half early in the second stanza with a power play goal. Jeff Taffe sent a pass from the left circle across the slot to Miroslav Satan on the doorstep, and Satan redirected the pass into the net behind Norfolk netminder Riku Helenius at 1:18.
However, the Admirals used a power play goal just under eight minutes later to restore their two-goal lead. Justin Keller sent a pass from the right half-wall to the right point for a Daryl Boyle one-timer. Juraj Simek, who was stationed in the slot between the hashmarks, deflected the knee-level slapshot downward between his own legs and the legs of Curry into the net at 9:16 for his ninth goal of the season.
The Penguins clawed back to tie the game in the third period with a pair of power play goals. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton leading scorer Janne Pesonen found the rebound of an Alex Goligoski point shot and sent a backhander over the left leg of Helenius at 7:22. Jeff Taffe then sent a shot from the left circle through a screen and into the net to knot the score at 3-3 at 13:00.
Norfolk out-shot Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 5-1 in overtime and the fifth shot found its mark. Justin Keller made a forechecking steal near the left corner of the Penguins zone and swung behind the net before emerging through the right circle. He dropped a pass to Radek Smolenak, whose 23rd goal of the season was also his fourth game-winning goal of the campaign at 3:52 of overtime.
Riku Helenius (37 shots, 34 saves) earned the victory. John Curry (24 shots, 20 saves) shouldered the loss.
Norfolk was 2-5 on the power play. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was 3-8.
The Admirals will continue a season-ending four-game road trip on Friday night against the Binghamton Senators. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. The game will be heard exclusively on 100.5 MAX-FM.
Don’t miss a minute of the action by purchasing your 2009-10 season tickets today. Affordable monthly payment plans are available for a limited time only! Stop by the Admirals’ Administrative Offices at Scope, call (757) 640-1212 weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or visit norfolkadmirals.com anytime!
1. Radek Smolenak – NOR
2. Jeff Taffe – WBS
3. Pete Zingoni – NOR
Notes … Justin Keller recorded his second three-point-night of the season to snap a five-game pointless drought. Keller assisted on each of Norfolk’s final three goals … With a goal and an assist tonight, Pete Zingoni has points in seven of his last 13 games (4G, 4A) … Earlier today, the Admirals signed five players to tryout contracts. Defenseman Mike Knight and forwards Andrew Sarauer and Mike Sgroi were signed to Professional Tryout Contracts (PTO) while goaltender Doug Raeder and forward Mason Graddock were signed to Amateur Tryout Contracts (ATOs) … Knight, Sarauer and Sgroi made their Admirals debuts while Graddock made his professional, AHL and Admirals debut … Scratches: D Kevin Quick, D Ty Wishart, F Bracken Kearns, F/D Wade Brookbank, F Jason Ward, F/D Brent Henley, F Grant Potulny and D Scott Jackson … F Steve Downie missed the game due to suspension … Attendance: 6,422.