After getting off to a great start on Friday, Providence dropped games on Saturday and Sunday to go 1-0-2 on the weekend. They dropped to seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but still maintain a tight lead on the St. John's Ice Caps for second place in the Atlantic Division.
The first rematch between the team that knocked the P-Bruins out of the playoffs in a seven game upset last season was a blowout for Providence. They scored two goals in the first and added three more in the third as Niklas Svedberg made 30 saves.
Penguins starting goaltender Jeff Deslauriers was chased halfway through the third period after giving up the fourth goal on a Zach Trotman wrist shot. Alexander Khokhlachev added a fifth goal against replacement goaltender Eric Hartzell on a nifty near-breakaway spin-around.
The other goal scorers were Justin Florek, Bobby Robins, and Craig Cunningham. Florek and Matt Fraser appeared in their first games back since recalls to Boston. Florek opened the scoring in the first period with his 10th goal of the season - one goal shy of his career high for a season in half the number of games.
Florek's goal was a flukey one that was the result of a scramble around the net and deflected off the goaltender's skate. Koko and Trotman got assists.
Bobby Robins got his fifth goal of the season after Jared Knight forced a turnover. Later in the game, Robins added a fight.
Trotman's fourth of the year came two minutes later as the result of a turnover forced by Nick Johnson.
The highlight goal of the game was the fifth Providence goal - Koko's eighth of the season, assisted by Johnson and Florek.
Koko received the third star, Robins the second star, and Trotman the first star. Friday's performance was strong, but would be the only highlight of the weekend.
Bobby Robins being awesome after winning a fight:
Svedberg getting some love after his 15th win of the season:
Saturday: P-Bruins 3, Springfield Falcons 5
The Falcons are a very good team, and showed it in the third period with four goals to overcome a 3-1 deficit and defeat Providence. Svedberg got the second start in a row. Although he gave up four goals (the fifth was an empty-netter), he still made 40 saves.
The Falcons struck first in the first period, but Seth Griffith tied the game with a power play goal later in the period. It was his ninth of the season assisted by Carter Camper and Joe Morrow.
In the second period, Providence scored two more goals, beginning with a second power play strike from David Warsofsky. Warsofsky's third goal of the season came from Johnson and Florek.
Cunningham added an unassisted goal on a turnover later in the second period to go up 3-1. It was his 15th of the year.
Cunningham would take a stupid penalty in the third period that would mark the turnaround for Springfield when they scored on the power play to tie the game, and later take the lead. A strong performance unraveled quickly in the third period, and would set the tone for an even more disappointing performance on Sunday in a rematch with the Penguins.
Sunday: Penguins 5, P-Bruins 1
Jeff Jakaitis made his debut with the P-Bruins. He was brought up from the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL after David LeNeveu signed a contract with Hartford while Malcolm Subban remains out with a foot injury. Jakiatis was good, but got almost no support from the defense in front of him. After Providence pulled within 3-1, a miscue on a play behind the net put the Penguins back up 4-1 and took all the wind out of the P-Bruins sails.
They were down from the start, when the Pens came out in the first period with 19 shots on net. Three went in in the opening period alone, including a late one that killed any momentum they could hope to gain for the second period.
Joe Morrow had the P-Bruins only goal on a full two minute five-on-three power play early in the third period. He let go a laser of a one-timer on a pass from Camper. It was Morrow's fourth goal of the year. Cunningham also got an assist.
An undisciplined penalty by David Warsofsky was also a key turning point. After aggressively arguing an offsides call in consecutive plays, he was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty, which negated the current P-Bruins penalty. The Penguins scored in the ensuing four-on-four.
Cassidy addressed the main key problem in Sunday's loss as losing puck battles. Providence was unable to match the toughness on and around the puck that the Penguins had.
"Wilkes-Barre has a winning culture for a lot of years," Cassidy said after the game. "Even though we addressed it before the game - 'listen, they’re gonna remember Friday'...Everyone has their pride...Especially when we haven’t played them this year, this was the first time. They wanted to show [the team on Friday was] not the real team and they did. Give them a lot of credit. They were better than us. They deserve full value for their win."
Sunday's game was a scramble right up to the puck drop as the team was informed the needed to scratch Zach Trotman due to the injury to Adam McQuaid in the Boston game not long before the Providence game began.
Jared Knight was also a scratch. Unhealthy scratches on Sunday were Malcolm Subban, Adam Morrison, and Alexander Fallstrom. Fallstrom isn't close to returning, but Subban might be back next weekend.
Matt Lindblad also made his return to the lineup on Friday. He was instructed to sit out on Saturday but allowed to return on Sunday. Cassidy thought Lindblad looked rusty as expected. "He's got his legs, so health-wise, he's good...These were a couple of heavy games we played. He's gonna have to get some games under his belt."
"Sveddy was terrific on Friday," Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy said. "[Against Springfield], he made a lot of saves early. The shot volume was a lot. There were some funny goals...[one] went off a foot in the high slot and through him...scramble around the net goals. He’s gotta tighten up on some of those heavy traffic area goals. He knows that. That doesn’t happen in Europe a lot.
"But I thought he was very good. His game is in very good shape very right now."
Providence was actually pretty good on special teams, specifically the power play. They were 4-for-14 in three games. Shorthanded, they allowed only one goal (against the Falcons) in a combined nine penalty kills. On the downside, Providence allowed their first shorthanded goal of the season against the Falcons on the empty-netter that sealed the win for Springfield on Saturday.
Providence will play very important games against St. John's Ice Caps on Friday and Sunday next weekend at home in Providence. St. John's is nipping at their heels in the division. They will also play the Worcester Sharks on Saturday in Worcester.