Patrick McGrath of the Utica Comets has his homecoming spoiled by the Penguins.
The Utica Comets took a 178 mile trip south on Saturday to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania to take on the Penguins with at least 100 of their fans following them to the game. The game had a special feel to it with the number of fans making the trip and it was also the return of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton native son and longtime Penguin Patrick McGrath, who now wears the red, black, and white of the Utica Comets. Despite the festive atmosphere and late comeback, the Penguins skated away with a 3-2 victory.
After a relatively quiet first twelve minutes of the game, where the Comets only had four shots on goal, they turned it on in the last eight minutes. They poured eight more shots in on Penguins goaltender Louis Domingue, himself a veteran of 141 NHL games. One of those shots resulted in a Comets goal, when Frederik Gauthier stole the puck at his own blue line, skated all the way in on a breakaway, and beat Domingue with a shot into the top of the net to give Utica a 1-0 lead. The Gauthier goal was the only marker of the period as the teams headed to the locker rooms for the first intermission.
The home team tied the score just two minutes and twenty-eight seconds into the second period when Sam Poulin tipped a shot from Cam Lee (after a nice spin move by Lee) past Utica goaltender Akira Schmid to tie the game. Just over the three minutes after the Poulin goal, the Penguins took the lead when Drew O’Connor sent a pass from behind the Utica goal line to a wide-open Jordy Bellerive – who fired a shot past Schmid from the slot to make the score 2-1. Domingue turned aside all Comets shots for the rest of the period, and the Penguins held their 2-1 lead into the third period.
The Penguins would add to that lead at the 4:13 mark of the third period when Filip Hallander took possession of a loose puck and ripped a shot past Schmid from the top of the left circle to give his team a two-goal lead. The Comets pressed on offense for the rest of the period but Domingue held them at bay until 4.7 seconds left in the game when Robbie Russo’s shot from the point made it through a screen and into the back of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton net to get the Comets within one with very little time left. Right off the opening faceoff, the Penguins iced the puck giving the Comets a chance with 1.6 seconds. Gauthier won the faceoff in the Penguins zone right to Russo who one-touched a pass to AJ Greer, whose one-timer was stopped by Domingue to preserve the Penguins 3-2 victory.
Notes: Utica outshot WBS 28-19…Utica was 1 for 5 on the power play, WBS was 0 for 4…Four Comets had one point apiece, eight Penguins had one point apiece…Utica has not allowed a power-play goal in straight games (fifteen straight penalty kills)…Utica goaltender Akira Schmid has appeared in eleven consecutive games…Utica plays again on Monday night at home against Cleveland, WBS plays again on Tuesday night at Toronto.