The Hershey Bears traveled Friday night to take on the Lehigh Valley...
Bears Bounce Back, Foreshadowing Caps in Boston with 2:57 OT Victory
First and Foremost: The Bears Won. Defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-3, in overtime, with the game-winner scored by Ryan Potulny. There will be a game 4, there will be no sweep, everyone in Hershey has now taken their ten minutes to celebrate, and by the time the players get home it will be back to the grindstone. This is the Bears’ first win in 11 games, and they’re well aware that they have few laurels to rest upon at the moment.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the ridiculous first period in which Hershey:
A. Took their first lead of any kind during their series. It was 1-0 6:15 into the first, and 2-0 by 17:03 of the same period.
B. Achieved that lead on D.J. King‘s first playoff goal since he was in juniors (and his first goal of any kind as a member of the Washington Capitals system). He did this in a game where Hershey faced elimination, on a slick wraparound that turned into a garbage goal. DJ called it lucky – My role here is just to work their D and wear them down for other lines, and eventually throw [the puck] at the net and something’s going to go in – but we can call that “clutch,” right? I’m fairly certain that there’s no minimum number of instances before a player’s actions can be termed clutch (even if many parties believe it’s an entirely fictional descriptor).
King’s line saw increased minutes throughout the game tonight, in part due to a shift in their makeup that saw recently-healthy alternate captain Graham Mink joining the fourth line in an effort to add grit and size when countering the (Zack) Sill-line from WBS.
C. Repeated Step B, except 11 minutes later and with Cameron Schilling as the name of record. Except it wasn’t his first pro playoff goal, it was his first pro goal of any kind. Congrats, rookie-D, you’ve earned them.
Of course, there were three other periods tonight, and a hockey game in Hershey this season isn’t complete without some back-and-forth (and threat to the fans’ collective blood pressure). Echoing the Caps (to within a few seconds of real-time), the Bears allowed the Baby Pens to tie things up 6:22 into the third period in Hershey. Kyle Greentree pushed the Bears back into the lead at 13:03, but it only lasted 3:40 before the Pens answered back and forced OT. The OT-winning goals were both scored at exactly the same elapsed time – 2:57 into the fourth period.
One of the things that’s been mentioned repeatedly over the course of the season is Ryan Potulny’s AHL playoff pedigree. He was acquired last summer after winning the Calder Cup with the Binghamton Senators, and was their top playoff scorer. It’s valuable experience that seems to be translating well for the Bears, at least in tonight’s game.
Next On the List: The Bears host the Pens again on Friday at 7PM for Game 4. It will again be a must-win for the Bears.
Sobering Note: This evens the series a little, with the Penguins now leading 2-1 over the Bears in a best-of-5. However, the Capitals victory over the Bruins torpedos any hope that the Bears had of seeing Keith Aucoin, Dmitry Orlov, or Braden Holtby before the end of the second round of the AHL playoffs.
Suspension Tracker: Patrick Wellar, suspended tonight for a slashing infraction this past Saturday, will be eligible to play in Friday night’s Game 4. Joel Rechlicz served game number four of his six game suspension carrying over from the regular season.
Photos: A collection of photos from the game will be going up on the author’s flickr over the next 48 hours.