BostonBruins.com - The Providence Bruins were poised to take a 2-1 series lead over the Hershey Bears on Thursday night, in Game 3 of their division final of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
They outshot the Bears 12-2 in the opening frame, and took a 1-0 lead into the second period. It marked their eighth straight postseason game without allowing a first period goal.
Despite the early success and a 40-15 shots advantage overall, the P-Bruins ultimately left chances unfinished and fell 2-1 in overtime.
They will be right back in action on Friday night for Game 4 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, looking to even the series at 2-2.
"Disappointing, but not discouraging," Providence Head Coach Kevin Dean said of the Game 3 outcome on Thursday night. "I think if we play that same game the next however long, we'll be in pretty good shape. We've got to finish more, and our power play's got to be better. It's that simple."
In addition to a lack of finish (which can also be attributed to strong goaltending by Hershey's Pheonix Copley), Providence failed to convert on six power play opportunities, including one in overtime just before Chris Bourque fired in the OT-winner during a Hershey man-advantage.
"Our power play's way underperforming right now, and it's got to be better. Period," said Dean.
Both during five-on-five play, and during the power play, Dean is looking for his team to relax and play with confidence.
"I don't think it's burying down. I think it might be the opposite now - getting a little tight, nervous. That's what I'm seeing on the power play," Dean said of his team's finish. "They're lacking a littlest of composure, but we're not a group of guys that really put a lot past the goalie the first time."
"I think we've got to do a better job of getting pucks at his feet, getting to the net, and then putting the next one in," said Dean. "I think we overpassed, at least a handful of times. We've got to get those pucks to the net."
Defenseman Chris Casto got Providence on the board in the first period with a laser from the right point after good pressure in the Hershey zone.
Danton Heinen started the initial wave of pressure with a strong scoring chance off the rush, with Wayne Simpson following up on a rebound opportunity as well.
Austin Czarnik's line with Jake DeBrusk and Noel Acciari created opportunities, and Acciari will only continue to improve after his first game back in the lineup after returning from injury.
Sean Kuraly showed his gritty play, and create a breakaway opportunity for himself in the third period that Hershey's netminder made a tremendous stop on.
"You noticed him. He was on the puck, he had the breakaway, he got in some forechecks, very happy with his game," said Dean. "And again, hopefully he can get some pucks to the goalie's feet, and hopefully someone else can get inside and knock the next one in."
The Bears did not get on the board until the third period. Heading into Friday's Game 4, the P-Bruins will be looking to cash in on those opportunities.
"We could be sitting here saying we won that game 4-1 and we'd be pretty happy, so we've got to park this and move on," said Dean. "Our guys know enough about that. We played a pretty good game, and if we play that game the next whatever, three, four, five games, we'll be in good shape."
Providence's Game 3 Lineup
Acciari returned to the lineup on Thursday night, after missing the beginning of the Calder Cup Playoffs due to injury.
Zane McIntyre only faced 15 shots on goal, but he was once again strong between the pipes, going his eighth straight game without surrounding a first period goal. Both of Hershey's goals came on the power play.
Here was the lineup for Game 3:
Danton Heinen-Jordan Szwarz-Wayne Simpson
Jake DeBrusk-Austin Czarnik-Noel Acciari
Chris Porter-Sean Kuraly-Peter Mueller
Anton Blidh-Colby Cave-Colton Hargrove
Tommy Cross-Chris Casto
Matt Grzelcyk-Alex Grant
Chris Breen-Linus Arnesson
Starting Goaltender: Zane McIntyre