BRUINS ON THE BRINK AFTER GAMES 1 & 2 OF ECQF
The Providence Bruins, who finished the regular season first overall in the AHL (50-21-0-5) with 105 points and with the Atlantic Division title, opened the postseason on Friday night versus the Hershey Bears (36-31-3-6, 81 PTS) in their first playoff game since 2009. The Bruins last playoff run was cut short as they dropped Game Five of the Calder Cup semifinals to the Bears on Memorial Day in 2009.
Although the Bears qualified for the 2013 Calder Cup playoffs in the final hour of the regular season, earning the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference, they did not play like a team on the verge of elimination. Despite the statistics being in the Bruins' favor (26 regular season home wins), the Bears took a commanding two-game lead heading back to Hershey for Game 3 and Game 4 if needed.
The Bears struck three times on the man-advantage in Friday's series opener en route to a 5-2 win. Hershey's special teams thrived as they scored on their first three power plays and finished the night with 50% success rate. After taking a 4-0 lead through the second period, Jamie Tardif and Christian Hanson brought the Bruins within two goals, cutting the deficit in half. However, it proved to be too little, too late as the Bears' Michael Latta created a turnover in the neutral zone on a late Bruins power play and found the empty net to give the Bears a 5-2 lead with seven seconds left.
The Bruins wouldn't go down without a fight on Sunday as they battled back from three one-goal Hershey leads. By sending 58 shots on Philipp Grubauer (previous season high was 52 on 12/2) the Bruins were able to battle back from each of the Bears' leads with goals from Graham Mink, Carter Camper and Chris Bourque. The Bruins took their first lead of the game and the series with 6:42 to play in the third when Mink scored his second goal of the game and series. However, with just 1:29 remaining in regulation and a sixth attacker, Hershey's Joey Crabb tied the game 4-4. In a controversial call just 1:17 into the 20-minute overtime period, an icing call was waived off and Garnet Exelby was subsequently called for high sticking. The Bears were able to capitalize for their fifth power play goal of the series as Jon DiSalvatore got the game-winner 3:05 into overtime.