The Providence Bruins won a must-win game last night to send their (stupidly short) best-of-five first round series against the Hershey Bears to a game 4 today. Providence remains down 2-1 in the series and must win again today to send the series to a game 5 on Wednesday. This is the only series currently still in play in the first round of the AHL playoffs.
I had this game on while also watching the Boston Bruins game, so I missed some of the details, but it was actually a pretty great improvement in a number of areas for Providence.
The P-Bruins were able to tune out the noise of Hershey's crowd, which was over 10,000 last night. The crowd was into it right away when Hershey scored just 3:44 into the game on a goal by Mike Latta. The good news: this wasn't a power play goal! In fact, this was Hershey's only goal last night, meaning THEY DIDN'T SCORE ANY POWER PLAY GOALS! Woohoo!
This is actually a huge accomplishment for Providence and hopefully will be something they can build on today because Hershey's PP has been the difference in the previous 2 games. In fact, Hershey went 0-for-6 on the PP last night! Including getting shutdown on almost a full 2 minute 5-on-3! THIS IS GREAT NEWS!
Niklas Svedberg showed signs of getting back to his old awesome self. He made some great saves - and timely saves at that. He stopped 30 of 31 shots and was awarded the 2nd star of the game.
After letting in an early goal, the P-Bruins didn't collapse. They remained confident and in control and Chris Bourque (thanks for hating him in Boston - and no, you can't have him back) tied the game 5 minutes later on a deflection from a Garnet Exelby shot from the point.
The best part of the scoring? Providence's 2nd goal and what would stand as the game-winning goal in the 5-1 win game from none other than BOBBY ROBINS! He was an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat-trick last night, having fought Patrick Wellar later in the 2nd period.
But back to his goal - Robins gave Providence the 2-1 lead 3:06 into the 2nd period. This was only the 2nd lead Providence has had on the series, and the only time they would make it a lead of more than 1 goal, hold onto it for the remainder of the game.
Robins' goal was assisted by Kevan Miller, who was in his first game of the playoffs this season after missing the last weekend of the regular season with a recurring rib injury. Miller and Matt Bartkowski, although on the ice for the first Hershey goal last night, have normally been the more reliable defensive pair in Providence. Zach Trotman became the healthy scratch to make room for Miller's return.
Providence jumped ahead to a 3-1 lead when they went on the PP midway in the 2nd period. This is interesting to note that Hershey head coach Mark French changed his line-up from the first 2 games by inserting Washington Capitals prospect Tom Wilson into the game for game 3. Wilson's team was recently eliminated from the OHL playoffs, making him eligible to join the AHL. Wilson took the spot of Matt Pope in the line-up last night and made his professional debut.
Wilson took a tripping penalty 9:44 into the 2nd period, putting Providence on the power play. Hershey had just killed off a minor penalty to Dmitry Orlov, but were unable to kill off another one almost immediately after. The importance of special teams in this series showed in this pivotal point of the game - Providence was able to convert and build on their lead on a goal by Jamie Tardif at 10:19 of the 2nd period. Bourque and Ryan Spooner assisted.
Chris Bourque had a hell of a night. It was the first time he has played in Hershey in any uniform other than the Hershey Bears uniform. He holds several records for the club and whatever, who the hell cares, Hershey can suck it. There is a reason we got Bourque - he kicks ass in the AHL. Especially in the playoffs. Like right now. He was the number one star, racking up 2 goals and an assist. His 2nd goal came 4:07 into the 3rd period to give Providence a commanding 4-1 lead. It was assisted by Spooner, who is finally getting into the professional playoff mindset it seems.
Providence sealed the deal with a 5th goal from Carter Camper, an unassisted power play goal at 8:02 of the 3rd period. Providence was 2-for-4 on the power play last night. They won the special teams battle and therefore won the game, which has been the case in the previous 2 games of the series as well.
At 12:56 of the 3rd, Kyle MacKinnon and Wilson got into an adorable fight and each got 2 minutes for roughing. That's not really important to anything other than the fact that it was adorable.
Although he had no points, Torey Krug was a +2. He showed some great moves and much more confidence than previously seen in the series, and was key in getting good movement on the power play flowing.
Jordan Caron led all skaters with 5 shots on net. His line, centered by Camper with Craig Cunningham on the other wing, continued to fly last night and had several great scoring chances at even strength.
For the tl;dr crowd, here is a summary:
- This was a must-win for Providence, down 2-0 in the best-of-5 series.
- Providence won the special teams battle: 2-for-4 on the PP, while Hershey was 0-for-6 on their PP.
- Hershey scored early, but Providence bounced back and shut them down the rest of the night.
- Chris Bourque had 2 goals and an assist. He was the first star.
- Niklas Svedberg was the best he has been all series, making 30 saves and earning the second star.
- Ryan Spooner was the third star, showing great improvement from previous two games, and tallying 2 assists.
- Jamie Tardif and Carter Camper each had power play goals.
- Bobby Robins had the game-winning goal and a fight.
- Defenseman Kevan Miller had an assist in his first game back from injury in the series.
- Cunningham, Exelby, and Florek each had 1 assist.
- Suck it Hershsey.
Game 4 is this afternoon at 5pm! Providence must win in order to send the series to a game 5, which would be back in Providence on Wednesday. Please hockey gods, give us a Providence win today!