PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Postseason hockey works in mysterious ways. Outshooting or outplaying a team does not guarantee victory when the calendar turns to spring.
Providence learned that the hard way during Thursday night's Game 3, when it outshot Hershey, 40-15, en route to a crushing 2-1overtime loss.
The P-Bruins followed a similar script on Friday night, as they landed 39 shots on goal to Hershey's 11, while once again struggling to capitalize on some golden opportunities. Providence, however, made sure to write a different ending in Game 4.
Chris Porter's tally with just 41 seconds remaining in the second period proved to be the difference for the P-Bruins as they secured a 2-1 victory over the Bears and knotted the best-of-seven Atlantic Division Finals at two games apiece. Game 5 is set for Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin' Donuts Center (3:05 p.m. ET).
"It's frustrating in a series like that when you're putting up a lot of shots and their goalie was playing well," said Porter, whose winner was his third goal of the postseason. "It's tough to stay mentally focused in games like that. I thought the game before was the same kind of story, we carried the play a little bit…we were putting up a lot of shots.
"Sometimes the ugly ones are the ones that go in in the playoffs. Hopefully we can take what we've built over the last couple games and Sunday and continue to do the same things."
Just seconds before the eventual winner, Porter was stationed at the top of the crease and found Noel Acciari charging to the net from the corner. Acciari jammed the puck off the right post, before it ricocheted back to Porter, who swatted his second attempt at the bouncing puck past Hershey goalie Pheonix Copley - he had to exit the game with an injury following the goal - to put Providence ahead, 2-1.
"We were preaching in the locker room, just get pucks to the net," said Acciari, who was playing in just his second game back from injury. "They're not going to be pretty goals, they're going to be greasy goals around the net just like the second one. Ports had a stick around the net and got a nice one there. That's playoff hockey."
Providence grabbed the game's first goal on defenseman Alex Grant's power-play tally just 2:04 into the second. After Acciari was slammed from behind into the end boards in back of the Hershey net, some slick puck movement led to Grant's first of the postseason.
Austin Czarnik and Peter Mueller played a little give-and-go, before Mueller found Grant creeping in from the left point. Grant took the feed and ripped one by Pheonix Copley to get Providence on the board.
"We made a little adjustment…with the help of [Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy] up in the sky watching and I think it paid off," said Dean, whose team went 0 for 6 on the man advantage in Game 3. "We got some better looks and got a little bit more ice, opened them up a little bit. We'll continue to look at some of that stuff."
Just 3:47 after Grant's goal, Hershey knotted the game when Bears forward Dustin Gazley tipped one by Zane McIntyre to make it 1-1. Despite the quick equalizer, Dean was pleased with Providence's overall response to the goal.
"We had a real good second period, we scored and they come back and score pretty quickly. We didn't really let down, so good for our guys in that regard," said Dean. "They kept plugging away, we got kind of the ugly goal at the end of the period that we were talking about we needed to get - kind of a get to the net, get the puck to the net and see if we can't get an ugly goal."
The P-Bruins had another strong start, outshooting Hershey, 15-3, in the first period, while extending their streak of not surrendering a goal in the opening frame to nine games.
First Line Shines
The top line of DeBrusk, Czarnik, and Acciari led the way for Providence, as the trio combined for 10 shots on goal and a number of quality scoring opportunities.
"I liked them. Good zone time, good in transition, they possessed the puck well in the offensive zone," said Dean. "That all adds up, too. That can wear a team down when you have 40 second shifts, shift after shift in their end…and I think that was the best game Austin played in the series, if not the whole playoffs.
Sean Kuraly missed the game with an injury suffered in Game 3 on Thursday night. Ryan Fitzgerald took his spot in the lineup, slotting in as the third line center between Porter and Mueller.
"I thought we had all four lines going. Fitzy came in and did a nice job, especially early," said Dean.
On Kuraly's chances of playing in Game 5 on Sunday, Dean said, "There's a chance, but I think it's unlikely. But there's a chance."
Game 4 Lineup
Here is what the Providence lineup looked like for Game 4:
Jake DeBrusk - Austin Czarnik - Noel Acciari
Danton Heinen - Jordan Szwarz - Wayne Simpson
Chris Porter - Ryan Fitzgerald - Peter Mueller
Anton Blidh - Colby Cave - Colton Hargrove
Tommy Cross - Chris Casto
Matt Grzelcyk - Alex Grant
Chris Breen - Linus Arnesson