Providence, RI--- Wednesday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center, the Providence Bruins were on the wrong end of AHL history. For the first time ever, a lower seed won the seventh game to win a series after falling behind three-games-to-zero.
"It hurts. We battled hard all year. To go up three-nothing, and then for them to come back and win four in a row, it's a tough pill to swallow," said Providence captain Trent Whitfield.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton completed its series comeback thanks to a four-goal second period outburst. The Penguins added a goal late in the third period to take the decisive game, 5-0.
On the other side, Penguins coach John Hynes was happy to talk about the historical significance of the feat his team pulled off.
"The fact we came back from 0-3 and won game seven on the road is special. Anytime you can make history as a player or a team is special because that is why we all play sports. One of the most important things we do is leave a legacy and this team was able to do that so far," said Hynes.
Chad Kolarik started the scoring with a power play goal at the 4:44 mark of the second period. After taking a feed from former Boston College defenseman Brian Dumoulin, Kolarik's first shot was blocked, but he followed the puck to the net and scored from the left side for his fifth of the playoffs.
Holding onto a 1-0 lead, Wilkes-Barre scored three goals on three consecutive shots in a span of 4:11 to blow the game wide open and crush the hearts of the home fans.
Warren Peters gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead at the 13:04 mark when he tipped a Joey Mormina wrist shot from the left point. Peters is now 5-0 on his AHL career in game sevens.
Adam Payerl made it 3-0 Penguins when he converted on a quick pass from Chris Collins following a misplayed puck by Providence goaltender Niklas Svedberg. The AHL's top goaltender during the regular season was chased from the game following the second period.
Zach Sill gave the Penguins a commanding four-goal lead when he fired home a pass from Collins with 2:45 to play in the second. Dominik Uher was credited with the secondary assist.
In the third period, Trevor Smith scored streaking down the left side with 4:35 to play in the game. Kolarik and Derek Nesbitt picked up the two helpers. The score was the fourth goal of the playoffs for Smith, the former UNH forward.
Hynes' decision to switch goaltenders prior to the third game ended up being a brilliant move. Brad Thiessen took the loss in Game 3, but was a huge factor in Wilkes-Barre winning four consecutive games to take the series.
After falling behind two-games-to-zero in the first round and winning three in a row over Hershey to make the second round, Providence watched as Wilkes-Barre returned the favor.
The slide can be attributed to hot goaltending by Thiessen, but also to three key defensemen missing for the Bruins. Zach Trotman was injured and Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski were called up to the parent club in Boston.
On the ice, the team lacked discipline and made numerous mental mistakes. With Krug bringing his offensive exploits to Boston, Providence lost its way on the power play. The Bruins went powerless on the man advantage, not scoring a power play goal since the second game of the series.
"That's just an excuse [missing the three defensemen]. I mean they definitely would have helped us. They have a lot of experience and were back there most of the year for us. Just the familiarity with them on the power play, but at the end of the day we had plenty of guys in [the locker room] to get the job done," said Whitfield.
"You got to put it on us. We got to finish the plays and we didn't. It wasn't our best. We all know that," said Providence coach Bruce Cassidy.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton advances to the Eastern Conference Finals where it will take on the Syracuse Crunch starting Saturday night at the Onecenter War Memorial Rink in Syracuse.