WILKES-BARRE TWP. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have seen a lot of things change in their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup against the Providence Bruins.
After allowing 12 goals in the first two games, the Penguins have given up just three since.
And since the Bruins’ power play opened the series going 4-for-8 on the power play, the Penguins shut them down on their last 11 chances.
But the biggest change has been the series. Since Providence jumped out to a 3-0 series lead, the Penguins have battled back to stay alive.
Saturday’s 4-0 win cut the Bruins’ advantage to 3-2 as the series shifts back to Providence for Game 6 and 7, if necessary. The win comes on the heels of Friday’s 3-1 victory as the Penguins improve to 19-11 when facing elimination.
“We wanted to build off what we did (Friday) and put together three more periods of playing good hockey, and get the end result,” said head coach John Hynes.
On Saturday the Penguins clicked in all areas. The offense scored four times, including three goals on the power play, the penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 and Brad Thiessen stopped 30 shots for his third career postseason shutout.
And to top it off, the teams engaged in a line brawl with five minutes left that saw Providence’s Graham Mink pound Thiessen while the players piled up in the crease.
Mink received a match penalty and Thiessen said he sin’t sure what provoked the Bruins that led to the sequence.
Not that he was too concerned.
“I didn’t say or do anything. It kind of happened and I’m not sure what provoked,” Thiessen said. “Whatever they want to do. My job’s to stop the puck.”
The Penguins dominated all aspects of play in the first period, gaining a 2-0 lead on a pair of power play goals while dropping the gloves twice with the Bruins.
Providence spotted the Penguins five power plays in the period, and Brian Dumoulin was the first to find the back of the net when he put home a rebound at 10:55.
With an assist on the goal, Joey Mormina had a hand in the last four Penguins’ tallies. He also has seven assists in eight games to lead all AHL defensemen in the category.
Five minutes later more Providence penalties put the Penguins on a two-man advantage for 1:07. During the ensuing power play, Bruins’ defenseman Garnet Exelby lost his stick and Trevor Smith took advantage. Smith skated by Exelby into the low slot and blazed a wrist shot over Bruins’ goaltender Niklas Svedberg for a 2-0 lead.
“We got off to a good start and when you cause a team to take penalties, to really drive the momentum of your team you want to be able to score in those situations,” Hynes said. “Anytime you get a five-on-three at this point in the season you have to be able to execute and score.”
In the later stages of the period, Adam Payerl dropped the gloves with Providence enforcer Bobby Robins after he pounded three Penguins into the boards. A few minutes later Christian Hanson and Mormina went at it.
With a Penguins power play that has connected on 7-for-20 chances coming in, the last thing the Bruins needed to do was go back to the penalty box in the second period.
But that’s exactly what they did when Robins was assessed a boarding major after crushing Brian Gibbons into the glass.
With five minutes of power play time, the Penguins came close to extending their lead early on until things were interrupted with an interference call on Gibbons midway through. The Bruins were able to kill off the rest of the major and came close to beating Thiessen several times later in the period. Thiessen came up big, however, including a stop on a Jamie Tardif backhand at the crease.
The Penguins regained control and extended the lead early in the third period when Payerl blasted a slapshot past Svedberg to make it 3-0. The goal was the first tally of Payerl’s postseason career.
Payerl’s goal sealed the win, but the bad blood carried on after the line brawl.
With three minutes remaining, Paul Thompson scored on the power to make it 4-0. Svedberg took exception to the goal and slashed Thompson in the back of the legs to spark another brawl in which Providence’s Garnet Exelby punched Smith while everybody else on the ice was tied up.
Hynes didn’t have a problem with the series of fights that ensued late in the game.
“It’s two emotional teams now, in a series that has become intense,” he said. “Both teams have a lot of high character guys. It’s part of the playoffs and both teams handled it well.”
- Game 6 is on Monday, in Providence at 7:05 p.m.
- G Scott Darling, D Dylan Reese (injury), D Cody Wild, C Chris Barton, C Dominik Uher, RW Christiaan Minella, LW Anton Zlobin, LW Steve MacIntyre and D Harrison Ruopp were scratched for the Penguins.
- Bobby Farnham left the game in the first period after taking a hard hit into the board and did not return.
Providence 0 Penguins 4
Providence 0 0 0 — 0
Penguins 2 0 2 - 4
Scoring – 1. WBS, Brian Dumoulin 1 (Gibbons, Mormina) power play 10:55. 2. WBS, Trevor Smith 2 (Holzapfel, Nesbitt) power play 16:47. Penalties – PRO, Exelby (hooking) 1:01; PRO, Button (roughing) 9:50; PRO, Tardif (slashing) 11:26; WBS, Holzapfel (roughing) 11:26; PRO, Robins (fighting) 14:29; WBS, Payerl (fighting) 14:29; PRO, Miller (holding) 15:27; PRO, Hanson (roughing – double minor) 16:20; WBS, Mormina (roughing) 16:20; WBS, Merth (cross-checking) 19:29; PRO, Cross (roughing) 20:00.
Scoring – None. Penalties – PRO, Robins (boarding major) 4:09; WBS, Gibbons (interference) 5:21; WBS, Mormina (slashing) 11:45; WBS, Momrina (elbowing) 17:22.
Scoring – 3. WBS, Adam Payerl 1 (Dumoulin, Holzapfel) 3:39. 4. WBS, Paul Thompson 3 (Dumoulin, Smith) power play 16:44. Penalties – WBS, Merth (delay of game) 9:02; PRO, Bourque (slashing) 11:14; PRO, MacDonald (fighting) 14:37; PRO, Mink (match-check to the head) 14:37; PRO, Whitfield (misconduct) 14:37; WBS, Grant (interference, misconduct) 14:37; WBS, Kolarik (fighting) 14:37; WBS, McNeill (misconduct) 14:37; PRO, Cunningham (cross-checking) 15:49; PRO, Exelby (fighting) 16:00; PRO, Svedberg (slashing, roughing) 16:44; WBS, Holzapfel (cross-checking) 18:22.
Shots on goal
Providence – 7-10-13-30
Penguins – 11-9-9-29
Providence – 0 of 4
Penguins – 3 of 11
Providence – Niklas Svedberg 6-4 (25 saves – 29 shots)
Penguins – Brad Thiessen 3-1 (30-30)
Providence – G Niklas Svedberg, D Ryan Button, D Kevan Miller, LW Craig Cunningham, C Carter Camper, RW Jordan Caron
Penguins – G Brad Thiessen, D Joey Mormina, D Peter Merth, LW Riley Holzapfel, C Warren Peters, RW Adam Payerl
1. WBS, Brad Thiessen (shutout) 2. WBS, Brian Dumoulin (goal, two assists) 3. WBS, Riley Holzapfel (two assists)
Referee – Trevor Hanson, Jean Hebert. Linesmen – Tom George, Scott Pomento