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Bears Blank Pens, Take 2-0 Series Lead

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – There is no such thing as a perfect game in hockey, but the Hershey Bears came about as close as a team can come to perfection on Saturday night. Eric Fehr scored twice and Frederic Cassivi stopped all 19 shots he faced as the Bears blanked the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-0 in Game 2 of the East Division finals Saturday night at Wachovia Arena. The Bears now leads the series, 2-0. Game 3 is at 5 p.m. Sunday at Giant Center in Hershey.

“I don’t think you can get this team to play any better or harder,” said Bears head coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “I think we frustrated them pretty good tonight. As a coach, it was a pretty satisfying job that the players did.”

“For me it’s not a matter of getting a shutout or not tonight,” said Cassivi. “I was trying to bounce back with a solid game. I wasn’t very satisfied with my last game in Game 1. I just wanted to be better tonight. The guys made it easier for me. They didn’t get too many shots or too many chances.”

For about a period and a half, Saturday night’s Game 2 was eerily similar to Thursday night’s game one. As they had done in the series opener, the Bears jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the midway point of the game. The Pens came back with a pair of shorthanded goals late in the second period of Thursday night’s game and rallied before falling 5-4, but the Bears rewrote that script on Saturday. The Pens took a pair of penalties in the latter half of the second in Game 2, but Hershey kept it buttoned down while playing with the extra man. The Bears never let the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton crowd become a factor.

“You try to learn from your mistakes and we made that mistake in Game 1, being up 4-0,” said Cassivi. “We let down a little bit and let them come back in. You hope you never make the same mistake twice. We just kept going hard, going hard and it paid off.”

If there were differences between the Bears’ play in Game 1 and the team’s performance in Game 2, it showed in the areas of discipline and composure. The Bears were forced to kill some first period penalties in Game 1, but Hershey was shorthanded for all of four seconds on Saturday night, and it enjoyed 11 manpower advantages of its own.

Hershey grabbed the lead less than six minutes into the contest. Six seconds after a faceoff to WBS goaltender Dany Sabourin’s right, the puck wound up in back of the net, going in off a Penguins defender. Bears’ captain Boyd Kane got credit for the goal, his second of the playoffs at 5:28.

Hershey extended its lead to 2-0 late in the period after the Penguins’ Ryan Stone was sent off for holding. Lawrence Nycholat ripped a shot off from the right point, and Eric Fehr was able to get a stick on it and deflect it past Sabourin and into the cage at 18:04.

The Bears added a second power play tally at 3:16 of the second when WBS’s Ryan Whitney was sent off for elbowing Louis Robitaille. Forty seconds after Whitney was seated, Kris Beech launched a wrist shot from the circle to Sabourin’s right, beating the goaltender high to the glove side.

Barely a minute later, Fehr extended the Hershey lead to 4-0 with his second of the night. Gaining the offensive zone after taking a pass from Dave Steckel, Fehr drilled a wrist shot that Sabourin waved at and missed.

Tomas Fleischmann closed out the scoring with a power play goal late in the third period. Hershey defenseman Mike Green assisted, picking up his third helper of the night.

alt As bad as Game 2 went for WBS, it could have been even worse for the Pens. Less than two minutes into the second, Hershey’s Brooks Laich beat Sabourin high to the glove side, only to ring the puck off the post. Midway through the same frame, Hershey’s Boyd Gordon was denied an apparent goal when referee Gord Dwyer ruled the puck had not crossed the line.

The Penguins’ frustration came to the fore in the third period. When Graham Mink went off for elbowing at 4:59, the Pens were finally set to enjoy their first power play of the night. But on the ensuing faceoff in the Hershey end, the puck trickled to the corner. Bears defenseman Jakub Cutta went after it, and he was promptly tripped by WBS’s Maxime Talbot. Talbot began attacking Cutta, drawing a double minor for roughing in addition to the original tripping call. The Penguins’ power play had lasted but four seconds.

About six minutes later, Penguins’ right wing Dennis Bonvie decided he’d heard enough of Robitaille’s continuous yipping, and he went after the Bears’ agitator, drawing a fighting major, an instigating minor and a 10-minute misconduct in the process. After the fracas, WBS’s Daniel Carcillo was also excused for the duration of the evening when he was given a 10-minute misconduct for inciting. For the second playoff series in a row, Robitaille had caused a veteran AHL enforcer to have a meltdown.

“I guess he lost his cool,” said Robitaille. “That’s my job. Right now I’m winning against them. [Thursday] night [Bonvie and Carcillo] were in the box, tonight Bonvie [gave the Bears] seven power play minutes at the end. I don’t know if he tried to get a lift for his team or get his team going by going after me, but it was a little too late. It was [4-0], and the game was done. So for me there was no point to fight, no point to do [anything]. It’s a long series and the series is not over. For me to keep my cool was most important for us.”

Robitaille took a roughing minor early in the game, negating what would have been a Bears’ power play after Jared Aulin drew a hooking call. But Robitaille’s penalty was a good one; he incurred it after coming to the aid of Aulin, who had been run over in the corner as the whistle blew. That minor represents Robitaille’s total PIM for the series. Bonvie has racked up 23 minutes worth of infractions for WBS and Carcillo has a dozen.

Throughout the evening, the Bears mounted good pressure in the attack zone, with the line of Kane, Steckel and Gordon giving the Pens the most trouble down low. The Bears also did an excellent job of preventing the Pens from penetrating the Hershey zone. Bears blueliners continually broke up WBS rushes in the neutral zone, forcing the Pens to regroup. On those occasions when the Penguins were able to gain the Hershey line, the Bears were often able to choke off onrushing forwards along the wall before they could create anything in front or establish a forecheck down low.

“Our whole objective is to take time and space away,” said Boudreau. “If we can take time and space away, they don’t get a chance to get their [Erik] Christensens and everybody skating really well.”

Hershey was able to put a stop to the scoring streak of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s top line of Talbot, Stone and Jonathan Filewich. That trio entered Saturday’s game with playoff scoring streaks of seven, six and five games, respectively.

“They have some dangerous players over there,” said Green. “The key to our game is to make sure we don’t give them any time and space and we’re on top of them the whole time instead of chasing them from behind. I think everybody who was out there tonight did a good job of that.”

As they head back to Hershey for Game 3 on Sunday, the Bears know the series is far from over.

“They seem to relish losing the first two games of the series, getting behind and then coming back,” observed Boudreau. “They did it the last series, they did it last year against Binghamton and think there is another one in there where they lost the first two. They are a very resilient team and there is no way that they are going to sit back and think that they’ve lost [the series]. They are going to come out at us and believe that they can win [Sunday] night. We can’t be complacent and think the game is in the bank, because it’s not. The last I heard, this was a four out of seven [series].”

Boudreau on his team’s performance: “They are a great group of men and they are hungry to play. They play for each other and they’re playing hard. It’s a great thing right now.”

Boudreau on Fehr: “I think the stint in Washington did him good. Taking nothing away from Eric, but he is competing really hard right now. There were times as a youngster that we were always telling him to ‘compete, compete, compete.’ He’s competing. He’s got such a great shot and a nose for the net that when he’s competing, he’s pretty dangerous.”

Boudreau on Cassivi’s shutout: “That’s Freddie’s character, too. He’ll be the first one to tell you that his game wasn’t as sharp as it should have been or could have been on Thursday. That’s why you just stick with him. He’s a great player.”

Boudreau on Bonvie’s third period antics: “[They were] frustrated. If you had to listen to Louis for 24 hours, you’d want to kill him, too. I’m sure Dennis was just frustrated, that’s all it was. Frustration, things weren’t going good. Dennis is such a competitor. This is the 12th game that those two have played against each other and after a while it probably gets under your skin a little bit.”

Cassivi on the team’s play in front of him on Saturday: “It’s hard to describe. We’re intense, we’re smart, we play disciplined and we don’t make many mistakes, if any at all. We’re all playing together, and I think that’s the most important thing. It’s always someone different [stepping up] every game. Everybody is playing hard for each other and that is the most important thing.”

Robitaille on WBS’s level of frustration: “For sure they are frustrated. They lost their second game at home. We had an early lead again in the second. They started trying to be tough at the end of the game when the game was over; for us there was no point to respond. We played a very disciplined game; our team was so disciplined. We have to get ready for [Sunday]. We don’t want any injuries. They are coming after us because we are doing something good right now. We have to keep our cool and [Sunday] be ready.”

Cutta on the Bears’ forwards: “I just have to tip my hat to the forwards because they were coming back and that allows us to step up and keep guys out [of the attack zone], because even if we get beat the forwards have our back. They are backchecking hard and they are going to pick up that guy.”

Green on whether he feels the intensity growing as the playoffs wear on: “I think so, definitely. The first series, it was kind of new to some of us and we didn’t know what to expect. But now it is definitely getting intense and you are playing better teams as you go. With these guys, you can’t let up a bit.”

Lining Up – After missing Game 1 of the series with an unspecified injury, Bears left wing Tomas Fleischmann was back in the lineup on Saturday. Owen Fussey and Jakub Klepis were scratches after having played in Game 1, and Jared Aulin was back in the lineup after sitting out Game 1. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went with the same lineup it deployed on Thursday, with the exception of Sabourin between the pipes instead of Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fred Hot The shutout was the second playoff whitewash of Cassivi's career; the first came with the Bears in 2001. Cassivi is now 13-3 in Calder Cup action for his Bears career. He leads all goaltenders with six wins in the 2006 Calder Cup playoffs.

First Things First – For the second time in as many games during East Division finals, and the fifth time in six games during the postseason, the Bears drew first blood. Five different Bears have scored the game’s first goal during the playoffs this spring, with captain Kane doing the honors on Saturday. Beech, Steckel, Gordon and Colin Forbes preceded Kane on that list.

Still Streaking – Several Bears kept scoring streaks alive in Game 2. Steckel’s second period assist on Fehr’s second goal stretched his scoring streak to six consecutive games (four goals, three assists). Beech’s goal ran his streak to six games (four goals, five assists); he and Steckel have scored in all six postseason games. Fleischmann has scored in all five of the games he has played (three goals, five assists). Fehr pushed his scoring streak to four straight games (four goals, two assists). Kane (two goals, three assists) and Laich (two goals, four assists) have also scored in four straight contests.

You Lose, You Sit – After starting Game 1 of the East Division finals series for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was back on the bench for Game 2 on Saturday, and Dany Sabourin was between the pipes. Pens head coach Joey Mullen has established a pattern of staying with a goaltender only as long as he is winning. Fleury had started three games in a row; Sabourin has now started five of the nine games for WBS in the playoffs this spring. If the pattern holds, Fleury would be back in goal for Game 3 in Hershey.

Down, But Far From Out – The Pens have now lost Game 2 in nine consecutive playoff series. As Boudreau noted, the Penguins have a track record of rebounding when down 2-0 in playoff series. When the Pens have fallen behind two games to none, they have gone on to win three times (including once this spring and once in each of the two previous Calder Cup playoffs) and they have lost three series, including the 2005 East Division finals to Philadelphia.

Home Cooking Not So Good – With Saturday night’s loss to the Bears, The Penguins are 1-5 on home ice during the 2006 Calder Cup playoffs. Their lone home ice win came last Saturday in the deciding seventh game of the East Division semifinals against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Komet Connection – Penguins’ assistant coach Al Sims has served as a head coach in four different leagues since his playing career ended in 1988-89, including a one-year stint as the San Jose Sharks’ bench boss in 1996-97. Sims got his first taste of coaching in his final year as a player, when he served as player/assistant coach for the Fort Wayne Komets of the now-defunct International Hockey League in ’88-89. Sims took over as the head coach of the Komets in 1989-90.

Bears’ head coach Boudreau also served as player/assistant coach with the Komets, filling both roles in 1990-91 under head coach Sims. Boudreau played two seasons under Sims in Fort Wayne.

Sims led the Komets to the IHL championship in 1992-93, and was a finalist for the head coach’s job with the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim the following summer. The Ducks hired Ron Wilson as their head coach instead, and Wilson brought Sims on as an assistant. Ten days after Sims left the Komets for the Ducks, Boudreau was announced as his successor in Fort Wayne. Boudreau was named IHL coach of the year in his first season with the Komets. He led Fort Wayne to the Turner Cup finals in that first campaign on the job.

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