PROVIDENCE, RI – The Eastern Conference Semi-Final match between two of the elite organizations in hockey has been unusual yet also what was expected. It took a couple of games for the teams to get back to playing their similar styles of good defense coinciding with exceptioinal goaltending.
The series has a 2-3-2 format, so Providence opened the series at home before a smaller than accustomed loyal crowd of about 3000 on Friday night May 10th. Providence as expected had a better offense, but they simply overwhelmed WBS goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.
Zatkoff, was the AHL leader in GAA at 1.93 and had a save% of .920. Zatkoff gave up 8 goals on 27 Providence shots.
WBS scored first on a penalty shot by Chad Kolarik, who beat Providence goalie Niklas Svedberg with a nice wrist shot at 9:31 of the first period. Much of the period was spent in the WBS end of the ice as evidenced by the shots on goal that favored the Bruins 17-6. Ryan Spooner finally beat Zatkoff with just 1:06 left in the period to knot it at 1-1. It was Spooner’s 1st career playoff goal. The first period sort of played out like the first round in a boxing match, each team measuring up the other.
The second period went scoreless until the 5:09 mark, when Jordan Caron scored his 2nd goal of the playoffs and gave the Bruins their first lead of the game. However, just 1:14 later, the Penguins tied it up on a Brian Gibbons goal, his 2nd of the playoffs as well. Kyle MacKinnon responded almost immediately with his 1st goal of the playoffs just 46 seconds later. This was soon followed by another Bruin goal by Jamie Tardif, his 4th, at 8:34. Carter Camper (6th) made it 5-2 with a PP goal at the 10:24 mark. The teams and game then got a little rougher as the feeling out process was over and the Penguins were down by three goals on the road. The Bruins, Bobby Robins, went off for roughing which resulted in a WBS PP goal by Paul Thompson to close the gap at 5-3. Thompson would join Bruin Chris Bourque moments later in the penalty box for matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
A little over 5 minutes in to the third period, Providence added to their lead on a goal by Craig Cunningham, his second, getting the three goal cushion back at 6-3. At 13:46, several fights went down including Alex Grant of the Penguins and Bobby Robins, in which Robins would get instigating, slashing, and misconduct penalties as well. The Bruins Garnet Exelby would clash with Joey Mormina before being sent to their locker rooms. This seemed to fire up the Penguins who scored twice in 48 seconds, to bring it to 6-5. Chris Collins (2nd) and Thompson’s second goal of the game gave WBS some life but not a lot of time. Within another minute, Bourque scored his 4th goal to make it 7-5 and Tardif scored a PP goal to ice it at 19:24 to gain a victory in Game 1.
Shots were in favor of WBS, as they pushed to come back, 30-27. WBS was 2 for 6 on the PP and Providence ended up 2 for 4 with the man advantage. So much for a low scoring series.
On the following Saturday night before a little bigger home crowd in Providence, Jamie Tardif scored twice and Niklas Svedberg made 38 saves. Starting goaltender and AHL best Jeff Zatkoff was chased after the 1st period, his Penguins trailing 4-1 after one period.
Once again Wilkes-Barre scored the games first goal. Warren Peters scored a SH goal at 4:40 to give the Pens a 1-0 lead. That lead was short lived when Jamie Tardif scored a little over a minute later to tie it up at 1-1. It was Tardif’s 6th goal of the playoffs and came on the PP. Ryan Spooner (2nd) and Tardif (7th) scored for the Bruins before the period ended, Tardif’s goal , his second of the game was also a PP goal, like his first one. Zatkoff would not see the ice again, after giving up 4 goals on 13 shots in the 1st period. There was no real carryover of rough play from the previous game, with WBS desperate to get a split in Providence, before heading home for three home games.
Brian Gibbons scored on the PP for the Penguins at the end of the 2nd period at 14:47 to break the shutout bid by Niklas Svedberg. The Bruins held the lead in the 3rd on some great netminding by Svedberg, as the B’s withstood a 19-5 shot disadvantage. Zatkoff’s replacement in net, Brad Thiessen, was flawless in stopping all 16 shots he faced. WBS outshot Providence 40 -29 and were 1 for 3 on their PP. Providence was 2 for 6 on the PP and were about to face the next few games without Torey Krug, who was recalled by the parent club in Boston. Already without stalwart defenseman, Matt Bartkowski, the Bruins were going to be challenged on the back end in Wilkes-Barre.
One would expect that the home club would want to get off to a good start in front of their nearly 4000 fans in WBS. However, for the first time in the series, it was Providence who got on the board first at 3:04 of period number two. Jared Knight scored his 1st playoff goal to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the 2nd after a scoreless, tight checking, first period. Providence killed two penalties in the first, Chris Bourque and Christian Hanson received slashing and boarding penalties about five minutes apart in the opening period.
Center Trevor Smith of the Penguins tied the score at 1-1 with his 1st goal of the playoffs at 10:42 of the second stanza. Shots favored the Penguins again, 15-9 in the second period. The Bruins Niklas Svedberg was up to the task tonight and was being matched by Brad Thiessen who has replaced Jeff Zatkoff in the starting line-up for the Pens. After a scoreless 3rd period, the two teams prepared for their first OT game.
The Bruins wasted no time at all in OT as Carter Camper beat Thiessen for his 7th goal of the playoffs and the GW in OT for Providence. Craig Cunningham and Jordan Caron received the helpers on Camper’s tally. Final score 2-1 OT. Shots favored WBS, 33-22. Providence was 0 for 3 on the PP and WBS was 0 for 2 as well. The series was now all in Providence’s favor at three games to none.
The Penguins avoided the sweep by beating the Bruins 3-1 on Saturday May 17th. In front of 3100 fans, the Pens had to come from behind, but outstanding goaltending from Brad Thiessen and timely deflections led them to their first victory in the series.
Carter Camper started the scoring for Providence with his team leading 8th goal of the playoffs at 7:37 of the opening period. Jordan Caron got the loan assist on Camper’s goal. The score stood after one period of play.
Warren Peters, 3rd goal of the series, tied the score at 1-1, at 6:25 of the second period. About 10 minutes later, at 16:10, Riley Holzapfel, scored the go ahead goal to make it 2-1 Penguins. Chad Kolarik scored soon after for a 3-1 lead. It was Kolarik’s 4th goal of the playoffs, a PP goal, and was assisted by Joey Mormina and Brian Gibbons.
The score held up for WBS and they now trailed the series 3 games to 1. Providence outshot the Penguins, 32-22, but Thiessen was on top of his game. Niklas Svedberg stopped 19 of 22 shots and Providence was 0 for 4 on the PP. WBS managed to go 1 for 2 on their PP opportunities. No rough stuff again in regards to fisticuffs but there were several slashing and boarding calls on WBS when they had the lead.
Providence had one more chance to knock out the Penguins in Wilkes-Barre but were shutout by the terrific netminding of Brad Thiessen. The game was by far the nastiest and roughest of the series.
Providence had 8 penalties called on them in the 1st period alone, as referee Jean Hebert was in a giving mood with Providence. WBS scored twice on the ensuing PP’s to gain a 2-0 lead that they would never relinquish. Defenseman, Brian Dumoulin, scored his 1st playoff goal at 10:55 while Ryan Button served a roughing penalty for Providence. About six minutes later, Trevor Smith scored his 2nd playoff goal at 16:47 on Christian Hanson’s extra minor penalty for roughing . The 1st period featured a brawl between the Bruins Bobby Robins and the Pens Adam Payerl as well. More rough stuff to come.
The second period was no sooner underway when Robins received a 5 minute major penalty for boarding. Providence was able to kill the penalty off and keep within distance at 2-0, after two periods of play. Joey Mormina was cited for slashing earlier and then elbowing to finish the period.
The 3rd period featured two more Wilkes-Barree goals and two full line brawls between the now over-heated clubs. Payerl scored his 1st goal to make it 3-0 at the 3:39 mark of the 3rd period. A line brawl ensued at the 14:37 mark and involved everone on the ice, practically. Video replay shows Providence’s Graham Mink punching goaltender Thiessen while he is on the ice in a huge scrum. With the recall of the Bruins Torey Krug, newcomer David MacDonald was in the line-up and was involved in a fight with Chad Kolarik. Mink was given a match penalty for intent to injure. The Bruins Trent Whitfield, along with Penguins Alex Grant, and Reid McNeill received penalties for continuing the altercation. A wild affair. Paul Thompson scored on the ensuing PP at 16:44 and the Pens now led 4-0. It was Thompson’s 3rd goal of the playoffs.
Thompson’s goal infuriated Bruins goalie Niklas Svedberg who tripped Thompson and set off another brawl featuring Garnet Exelby of the Bruins and Trevor Smith. Svedberg received two penalties as well in the fiasco.
Providence outshot the Penguins 30-29 and was 0 for 5 on their PP. Wilkes-Barre was an incredible 3 for 11 on the PP and certainly got the better of the chances and perhaps some of the calls as well.
Game 6 is back in Providence tonight. Providence only has to win one of the two home games this week to move on to the Eastern Conference Final to face the Syracuse Crunch who has swept both of their series and will be well rested. Stay tuned.