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Moose take it on snout

Fall asleep in third to hand Penguins another win

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The plan was to let the Manitoba Moose sleep in Wednesday morning. But dozing off in the third period?

Not so much.

That's exactly the scenario that unfolded, however, as the Moose blew a 1-0 third-period lead to fall 4-1 to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the MTS Centre.

It was a critical loss for the Moose, engaged in a horse race for a playoff berth, who frittered away a glorious opportunity to pad their razor-thin cushion atop the North Division.

The Moose, at 37-26-1-5, still hold a one-point edge on the Hamilton Bulldogs and a two-point lead on the Toronto Marlies.

And just when Manitoba was about to get rewarded for, well, sleeping in.

Because prior to Wednesday night's rematch with the Penguins -- on the heels of a tepid 2-0 loss on Tuesday -- Moose head coach Claude Noel made the morning practice optional. Only five players showed.

Clearly, the toll of a monster 11-game string of games on the road was showing, after a pair of listless losses, and the Pens were beating a dead Moose.

"Yeah, you're tired physically a bit," Noel finally admitted. "But sometimes it's mentally. And you need to get away from the other players. And you need to get away from the rink. You need to let your mind go free."

Free, baby.

Lo and behold if those Moose didn't come out with significantly more purpose against the top-flight Penguins, who improved to 48-18-0-1. They outshot the visitors 12-5 over the first 20 minutes.

Then somebody hit the snooze button.

With Manitoba still clinging to a 1-0 lead midway through the third period, the Penguins exploded with four goals in a span of 4:11. Two potential points, poof, they were gone.

Wasted again was another sterling performance from Moose rookie netminder Eddie Lack, who faced 43 shots -- including 38 in the last two periods.

What's new? In his last seven starts, entering Wednesday night's contest, the Swedish rookie had faced an average of 36.7 shots, including two games 40-plus. Over that span, the 23-year-old's record was 4-2, with a sparkling .950 save percentage.

In all, Lack has now faced the Penguins four times this season, facing a whopping 155 shots and allowing 12 goals.

Noel will have a hard time making sense of the meltdown, other than the Penguins are simply a very solid club that has now surrendered just one goal in each of their last four games at the MTS Centre.

"That team plays with a lot of will," Noel said. "And they play physical. They play with weight."

Consider it a wakeup call.

Moose tracks: The parent Canucks reassigned defenceman Yann Sauve to Manitoba on Wednesday, but not in time to suit up against the Penguins.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 17, 2011 C4

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About Randy Turner

While attending Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, Randy Turner one day read an account of a Winnipeg Jets game in the Free Press when it dawned on him: "Really, you can get paid to watch sports?"

Turner later graduated with a spectacularly mediocre 2.3 GPA from Red River Community College’s Creative Communications program. 

After jobs at the Stonewall Argus and Selkirk Journal, he began working on the Rural page for the Free Press in 1987. Several years later, he realized his dream of watching sports for a living covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Bombers.

In 2001, Turner became a general sports columnist, where he watched Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake, then watched them win again in Vancouver in 2010.

He also watched everything from high school hockey and volleyball championship to several Grey Cups, NHL finals and World Junior hockey tournaments.

In the fall of 2011, Turner became a general features writer for the paper. But he still watches way too much sports.

Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing.

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