Special teams were the difference for the Hershey Bears, who killed off an impressive 10 power-play opportunities on way to beating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-0, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Saturday night on the road. Powered by goaltender Frederic Cassivi, who posted his first shutout of the postseason, his sixth of his AHL playoff career and his seventh win of the playoffs, the Bears held the Pens to just 20 shots on goal to secure a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Hershey will have the chance to close out the series and advance to the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night.
Hershey came out strong in the first period, still high off of Friday night’s exhilarating 4-3 double-overtime victory. Emotions ran high between both teams with checks being thrown early and hard to start the game with intensity.Matt Hendricks
opened scoring at the 7:38 mark of the first period, one-timing a pass from Friday night’s hero, Alexandre Giroux, to put the Bears up, 1-0. The goal was his fourth of the postseason, tying him for the team lead with Joey Tenute.
As has been the story of the series, Hershey continued its dominance on the penalty kill in the first period, killing off each of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s five attempts with the man advantage. Hershey has killed off 89.8% of its shorthanded situations through eight games in the playoffs.
The Bears fought off Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s final 18 seconds of a 4-on-3 advantage to open the second period of play, continuing perfection on the penalty kill. Back-and-forth action filled the early part of the second period before special teams were called upon yet again.
Cassivi was forced to make a couple of big saves on the Bears kill, sparking an offensive burst from Hershey when David Steckel powered the puck up the ice. Steckel made a pass to Andrew Joudrey who ultimately assisted on a goal by Quintin Lang at 13:16 to give Hershey a 2-0 lead. The goal came just 19 seconds after a Laing hooking penalty was successfully killed by the Bears.
The Pens managed to ring only four shots on goal during the second period.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton skated into the third period desperately seeking a pair of goals to tie up the game and avoid a deep hole in the series. Cassivi was forced to make a flury of saves early as tensions mounted for the home team, who skated hard at the Bears netminder.
Hershey’s Jeff Schultz
was called for hooking, the team’s eighth penalty of the evening, at 2:34 of the third. But the Bears continued their dominance in special teams, killing the penalty and forcing a pair of penalty calls themselves. Hershey seemed to get stronger as the period progressed, never allowing the Pens to really get into a groove.
Even with a two-goal lead the Bears continued to press hard. Giroux was called for tripping at 12:09 of the third when he took down the Pens Joe Jensen, sending the Penguins to their ninth power play of the game. Hershey once again managed to kill of the man advantage on the back of Cassivi.
The Bears didn’t back down as the minutes ticked off of the clock, forcing the Pens to worry about defending their own goal. Pens goaltender Nolan Schaefer was pulled with just over two minutes remaining in the game to give the Pens a two-man advantage, thanks to the Bears 10th penalty of the evening called with 16:58 remaining on the clock. But Cassivi remained flawless, making saves as the game came to a close, giving the Bears a 2-0 victory and posting a commanding shutout in his eighth appearance of the postseason.
Hershey looks to sweep the series for the second consecutive season when the teams meet again on Wednesday night at 7:05 at Wachovia Arena in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series.