Providence, RI - For a third straight game, the Providence Bruins had a chance to eliminate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and for a third straight time, they failed to finish off the pesky Penguins. Bruce Cassidy's Bruins will have a fourth chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night when they host Game 7.
Ever since Penguins coach John Hynes elected to bench Jeff Zatkoff in favor of Brad Thiessen, the Bruins have been hard pressed to find the back of the net. Tonight, the former Northeastern star was once again stellar. In a game dominated territorially by the Bruins, Thiessen stopped 46 of 47 shots he faced, giving his team a chance for some overtime heroics.
"He played real well. In the third period when we were not going and Providence was flying, it wasn't just the shots on net. It was the "Grade A" chances and quality chances he stopped. He kept us in the game," said Hynes.
Enter former UNH star Trevor Smith who scored the game-winning goal just 3:26 into the extra session on a wraparound. Smith notched his third goal of the playoffs when he took a feed from Alex Grant. He moved from right to left in back of the Providence cage before stuffing it past Providence goalie Niklas Svedberg.
The game-winning goal came as a result of some mental mistakes by a young Bruins team. "We had a winger go to the wrong wall and our defenseman burped up the puck. He gave it away. There were two young guys. Sometimes the pressure gets to you. In the overtime, anything can happen and it did," said a frustrated Cassidy.
Wilkes-Barre had the only three shots on goal of the overtime period. The Penguins mentality changed in between the last period of regulation and the extra session. The Penguins came out aggressively forechecking, something they were not doing much during regulation.
"The difference between the third period and the overtime wasn't a physical thing. It was mental," said Hynes following the game. "We were playing not to lose. You could tell guys didn't want to make a play that was there. The pressure was on us. If we made a mistake and gave up a goal, our season was over. The discussion between the third period and overtime was we had to go out and play. We couldn't be afraid to lose and we had to go out and play hockey," added Hynes.
After a scoreless first period, Providence got on the board first just over a minute into the second stanza. Just after Wilkes-Barre successfully killed off a penalty, the Bruins caught the Penguins in an untimely line change. Sensing an opportunity, Chris Bourque rifled a pass up the right boards to a waiting Jamie Tardif who sauced the puck over to Craig Cunningham who was cutting down the left slot. Cunningham made a quick move and deposited the puck into the back of the net.
Former Boston College star defenseman Brian Dumoulin evened the score at the 6:03 mark of the second period. The Penguins were moving the puck around on a two-man advantage when Dumoulin blasted a wrist shot into the top corner over Svedberg's glove. Bobby Robins' penalty had just expired so the goal will go in the books as just a five-on-four power play goal, but it was the result of a five-on-three.
Despite losing Torey Krug to the parent club, the Bruins still moved the puck well on the power play, but could not convert on the man advantage for a fourth straight game. Krug, who Tardif described after Game 2, as "coming into his own," has shown why he was such a weapon for Providence by scoring two goals and adding an assist for Boston in the first two games of the series against the New York Rangers.
"We're missing open nets. At some point, you got to put the puck in the net. You have to finish. We have to start finishing better. We need some production Wednesday," said Cassidy.
Wilkes-Barre has scored five power play goals in the last three games. An obvious key in the decisive seventh game will be for the Bruins to stay out of the penalty box.
There are few things better in sport than a Game 7 in hockey. "It's going to be a battle with two really good, competitive teams," said Hynes.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey and the AHL Playoffs for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.