SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Kevin Dean was conflicted following Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night. On the one hand, his Providence Bruins stormed back in the third period, twice pulling within a goal of the Syracuse Crunch and drumming up thoughts of another thrilling comeback - which has become a calling card of his team this postseason.
But on the other - more important - hand, the P-Bruins once again found themselves digging out of what proved to be an insurmountable hole.
"We scored two goals, that's great, but they're not going let us score three…we can't get in the situation, it has to be a more 60-minute game," Dean said following Providence's 5-4 loss to Syracuse in Game 3 of the AHL's Eastern Conference Finals at War Memorial Arena, a defeat that dropped the P-Bruins into a 2-1 series hole.
"We're a young team and we're enthusiastic and excited. We ride the wave of emotion a little bit too much. We get down, we get down; we get up, we get up. It needs to be more of a steady as she goes, and soldier on shift after shift, establish our game and even it out a little bit."
Trailing, 4-1, with less than four minutes to go in the third period, Providence ignited for two goals, from Anton Blidh and Danton Heinen, just 22 seconds apart to surge to within one. Then, only 41 seconds after Heinen's marker, Syracuse responded with an empty-netter from Cory Conacher - his second goal of the game - to take a 5-3 lead, before Ryan Fitzgerald once again brought Providence within a goal when he potted a shorthanded tally with 51 seconds remaining.
But that was as close as Providence would get.
"We didn't get the start we wanted, obviously, we knew they were going to come out hard. They're good in this building," said Heinen, who notched two goals and is now tied for the Calder Cup Playoffs scoring lead with 17 points (eight goals, nine points) in 15 games.
"We have a lot of resilience on this team. We still believed we could come back. We just came up short tonight. I think we've got to tighten up earlier in games and we'll be fine."
Video: Syracuse tops Providence 5-4 in Game 3
The Crunch, as they did in Game 1, built a 2-0 lead after one period. Conacher got things started when he fired a one-timer from the right circle - on the power play - past Zane McIntyre at 8:19. Some six minutes later, Michael Bournival doubled the Syracuse lead when he tipped home a Mathieu Brodeur point shot from the top of the crease.
"I thought our start was pretty good until they scored," said Dean. "It's easy to say we had a tough start when they score. But I thought our first six, seven minutes were pretty good…they took over from there."
Syracuse opened up a 3-0 lead early in the second when Matt Taormina threw one on net from the right point, taking advantage of plenty of traffic in front of Zane McIntyre, who was replaced by Malcolm Subban following the goal.
Subban stopped 21 of the 22 shots that came his way and gave Providence a chance to mount a comeback.
"I think that's the job of any goaltender that comes in, you try to weather the storm," said Subban, who had not yet played this postseason.
The P-Bruins seemed to receive a spark from the goaltending change as they outshot Syracuse, 20-12, in the second period, while cutting into the Crunch lead with a goal from Heinen with just under three minutes remaining in the middle frame.
"Our second period was real good, a lot of chances," said Dean. "We showed some pushback."
Syracuse, however, regained a three-goal advantage at 3:59 of the third during a stretch of four-on-four play. After a tremendous left toe save by Subban on Yanni Gourde's first shot, Gourde put home his own rebound to give Syracuse a 4-1 lead.
Blidh got the comeback started when he banged home a rebound from the doorstep to make it 4-2 with 3:20 remaining. Just 22 seconds later, Heinen fired home his second of the game from the slot to cut the Syracuse lead to 4-3.
"I think when we scored everyone just gets more of a burst of energy and just feed off that," said Heinen. "We can't be waiting to get a goal to start pushing more, we've just got to naturally do that."