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Hershey Advances in a Flash

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
With sudden-death overtime, by its nature, games end in a flash, as was the case in the Hershey Bears’ 7-6 overtime win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. And even though he didn’t figure in the final goal, this Game 5 – and the series – was decided by a Flash.

Left wing Tomas Fleishmann – “Flash” to his teammates in Washington and Hershey – tied a Bears club record with five points in a playoff game, leading his team to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row. Fleischmann’s one-goal, four-assist effort makes Hershey the first team to reach the American Hockey League’s final four and will give the Bears at least a week off before meeting Manchester or Providence in the next round.

Fleischmann’s heroics, which included assists on four of Hershey’s first five goals and the game-tying tally in the third period, did not go unnoticed by Alexandre Giroux, the man who scored an overtime game-winner for the second time in this series.

“It was Flash’s show tonight,” Giroux said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the end.”

Fleischmann’s five-point outburst gives him three Hershey playoff records: he set the marks for playoff assists (21) and points (32) in the team’s Calder Cup run last year. But the first nine games of the 2007 postseason hadn’t been as productive for the Czech Republic native who Washington acquired in the Robert Lang deal. He had just six points in that time while receiving increased attention from opponents.

“They didn’t pay much attention to me last year,” Fleischmann said. “This year, I can tell that teams are really focused on stopping our line. But we’ve been winning, so I’m happy whether I get points or not.”

Couple those relative struggles offensively with an injury suffered Wednesday night at Wilkes-Barre and head coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t sure what he’d get from Fleischmann Friday night – if he’d be able to suit up at all. Fleischmann was pronounced fit to play at the morning skate and made it clear early on that it could be a special night.

“I could tell from the first shift, he looked mean, he looked determined,” Boudreau said. “He was due. It’s pretty difficult to hold him down. They were keying on him, but he stepped up today.”

Fleischmann showed that determination even when he wasn’t racking up points Friday night. He drew a penalty while the Bears were already on the power play twice – giving them five-on-three advantages – and they converted both times. The first tied the score early; the second gave Hershey a 4-3 lead entering the first intermission after a wild first period.

That pass – a cross-ice dart to Scott Barney – was similar to his next assist, which gave Barney a hat trick. Then, after the Penguins went ahead 6-5 for their first lead since it was 1-0, Fleischmann put a backhand past goaltender Nolan Schafer to set the stage for overtime.

It was Fleischmann’s second game this season with at least four points – the other came while he was with the Capitals. Efforts like Friday night give Caps fans reason to believe that they will see more offensive heroics at the NHL level in the future.

Seen and Heard at GIANT Center

* Center David Steckel doesn’t occupy a spot on one of Hershey’s top two power-play units, but when the Bears go on a five-on-three, head coach Bruce Boudreau sends his 6’5” center over the boards. Steckel’s job is to win faceoffs and occupy space in front of the net, something that worked perfectly Friday night as Hershey scored three five-on-three goals.

But the reason Steckel doesn’t find five-on-four time is a big curious: have you ever heard of a player being too valuable for power-play time? Such is the case with the Bears’ assistant captain, who Boudreau admits he wants to save on his bench since opposing teams will typically counter with their best line after a Bears’ power play.

Once two members of the opposition are in the box, however, it’s just too tempting for Boudreau to put his big man out there.

* Left wing Chris Bourque was hit with a thundering check in the third period coming around the Penguins net, knocking his helmet off. Bourque headed to the bench and went briefly to the locker room, but missed just one shift.

He returned to his spot on the power play point in overtime, and his shot got through to set up Giroux’s rebound goal.

“Some of our young players tonight went through something completely new,” said Boudreau. “Chris Bourque hasn’t played in a game like that maybe in his life, and he goes out and gets the game-winning assist. Tremendous.”

* Center Andrew Joudrey missed Game 5 with a concussion suffered from a hit by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Ryan Stone on Wednesday night. Stone served a one-game league suspension in Game 5.

* Center Joey Tenute, knocked out of the playoffs with a broken rib that sent him to the hospital in Game 3, was in the building and participated in a Q&A session on the video board in the first intermission.

* Among the Capitals jerseys spotted in the GIANT Center crowd: Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, David Steckel and Jim Carey.

* Fleischmann’s five points tied a club playoff record most recently set by Bill Armstrong, who had a goal and four assists in an 11-1 win against Adirondack, April 3, 1991.

* Hershey faced a critical 5-on-3 shorthanded situation at the end of the second period, and head coach Bruce Boudreau turned to two forwards and a defenseman for the kill. With Mike Green and David Steckel in the box – both on calls that summoned a less-than-family-friendly response from Section 102 – Matt Hendricks, Quintin Laing and Andy Hedlund were on the ice for the final 1:14 of the period for Hershey. They kept the Penguins off the board and the score tied, 5-5.

WashingtonCaps’s Three Stars

3. Mike Green, Hershey Bears – The Capitals sought a boost in Green’s puck-moving ability and confidence when he spent time in Hershey toward the end of the year. By the looks of things, that goal has been reached. Green was the most poised, polished player on the ice.

2. Scott Barney, Hershey Bears – The Bears’ late-season acquisition from Grand Rapids has been a revelation, scoring 12 goals in 21 games with Hershey (regular season and playoffs) after posting four goals in 40 games with the Griffins.

1. Tomas Fleischmann, Hershey Bears – Only two players in Washington had four-point games this season: Alex Ovechkin and Fleischmann. Fleischmann displayed that kind of creativity and vision in his five-point game Friday night.
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