WILKES-BARRE- After witnessing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-4 victory over the Hershey Bears last night, a thought might cross one's mind. Maybe the conspiracists are right and there is something to the "Kennedy Conspiracy".
Tyler Kennedy's "shot from the grassy knoll" with 4:17 left in regulation time and the bizarre miscommumication that ensued between goaltender Frederic Cassivi and defenseman Sami Lepisto conspired to spell defeat for the Bears in their season opener.
Kennedy, the Penguins leading scorer against the Bears last season, had nearly gained entry into the Bears defensive side of the neutral zone when he lofted an innocuous looking shot toward the Bears net, with at least one of his Penguins teammates apparently still taking up residence in the Bears defensive zone.
Cassivi and Lepisto both tried vainly to snare the airborne puck with their gloves, Cassivi with his goaltender's mitt and Lepisto with his player's glove, with neither player being successful in their endeavor.
Adding to the confusion after the Kennedy shot was fired, was an apparent delayed offsides that a linseman had originally signalled and then waved off. When asked if the impending offsides call factored into the miscommuncation between he and Lepisto, Cassivi said "No, I wasn't thinking about that. I was trying to catch it and I think Sami was doing the same thing. He said he lost it in the lights there. It was just confusion."
Bears coach Bruce Boudreau, understandably upset after the game, was very forthright in his criticism of the officiating, particularly on the Kennedy goal.
"It's an embarassment" Boudreau said. "The two linesmen are horrible, they were horrible all game. The rule is the guy puts his hand up, one guy can come out, but if the other guy is still in the zone he has to tag up as well. You have to have everybody onside, and that wasn't the case."
"I don't even know if [the linesman] put his arm down, but if they don't know the rule of offsides after this being the third year it was implemented, then it's shame on them. It was an entertaining game up until that point with a lot of mistakes by both teams".
"If the linesmen don't know the rules and the referee doesn't have the gumption to stand up and ask them the right questions, then it's shame on all of them and I'm glad the league was here tonight to see it."
The first goal of the game was scored by the Bears and was largely the result of superb work by the normally offensively challenged agitator Louis Robitaille.
Moments after Bears defenseman Tyler Sloan took a questionable hit from Penguins forward Tim Wallace, Robitaille took his first shift of the evening looking to extract revenge on the Penguins.
Robitaille started the shift by hammering former Bears teammate Deryk Engelland into the boards behind the Penguins net and finished it by assisting on a goal by Chris Bourque that was originally credited to Robitaille.
Penguins forward Chris Minard, a 32 goal scorer last season with Lowell of the AHL answered the Bourque goal with three consecutive goals to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead, 2:51 into the second period.
The suddenly offensive Robitaille, who scored only 14 points all of last season once again found himself on the scoring sheet just under five minutes after the third Minard goal to cut the Penguins lead to 3-2.
Robitaille skating down the left side, fired a beauty of a slapshot into the "top shelf" of the net behind Penguins goaltender Ty Conklin.
"[Conklin] gave me a little bit of a deke," Robitaille said. "I'm not Wayne Gretzky, I cannot aim for there. I wanted to shoot hard to the upper corner of the net, that was our game plan tonight."
Chris Bourque, looking to show that he has what it takes to be a premier performer at the American Hockey League level, tied the game at 3-3, 47 seconds after the Robitaille goal. Andrew Gordon collected an assist on the goal for his first point as a pro.
Conklin made the original save on a close range shot, but could not get a handle on the rebound. Bourque situated behind Conklin, somehow dug the puck out from under a mass of humanity and swiped the puck into the net to finish out the scoring in the second period.
With Bears forward Jason Morgan serving a minor roughing penalty incurred at the end of the second period, Jeff Taffe's power play goal at 1:43 of the third period gave the Penguins their third lead of the game, 4-3. The Taffe goal was the Penguins third power play marker on the night.
Kyle Wilson, Chris Bourque and Joe Motzko, three players being heavily counted upon by the Bears for offense early in the 2007-2008 campaign rose to the challenge and ensured that the power play utility on this night would not reach 0-for-4 status, combining for a game tying power play goal 6:43 into the third period.
With Penguins forward Nathan Smith in the penalty box, Wilson won the faceoff and the puck eventually found it's way onto the stick of Bourque. Bourque then launched a shot that beat Conklin but rang off the post behind him and caromed out to Motzko who easily deposited the puck behind Conklin to tie the game 4-4.
Then came the Kennedy flip-in fiasco that brought out the evil spirits at Wachovia Arena, a building that at times during the last three season has become Cassivi's "House of Horrors."
Cassivi, surrounded by reporters after the game, was asked if the ample practice time that the Bears will have between games one and two will help in resolving the communication issue.
"I don't think it's about practice, I think it's more about game situations" said Cassivi. "It's a matter of getting some games under our belt and playing with each other during games."
But as they say, practice makes perfect.
-- The Penguins have hosted the AHL's season opening game in all eight of their years in
-- The officials were referee Chris Ciamaga and linesman Bob Fryer and Paul Carnathan.
-- Louis Robitaille was named the number two star of the game.
-- Ben Clymer, Sean Collins, Jamie Hunt, Steve Pinizzotto, Jay Beagle, Dean Arsene, Chris McAllister and Tom Maxwell were Hershey scratches.
-- Dennis Bonvie, the AHL's all-time penalty minute leader celebrated the start of his farewell season by decisioning Bears defenseman Grant McNeil in a first period fight.
-- Hershey's next game action is in Binghamton on 10/13 against the Binghamton Senators.