HERSHEY, Pa. – Chris Mueller followed up his game-tying goal by scoring the winner 11:39 into overtime while the Hartford Wolf Pack played shorthanded, and the visitors claimed a 5-4 victory over the Hershey Bears on Wednesday night at GIANT Center in Game Five of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The opening period started out well for Hartford as the visitors were handed 55 seconds’ worth of two-man advantage power play time. 30 seconds into the chance, Danny Kristo circled up high and sent a slap shot into the upper-left corner behind Philipp Grubauer for a 1-0 lead.
But the Bears turned up their heat and scored three times in a span of 6:55 – all at varying strength – and stormed out to a 3-1 lead after the first period. Connor Carrick tied the game on Hershey’s first power play of the night, when his wrist shot from the center point rose through traffic and beat Yann Danis cleanly at 7:21.
1:23 later, Chandler Stephenson collected a pass from Garrett Mitchell and skated down the left wing, flew past defenseman Tommy Hughes and tucked a backhander along the ice and through the pads of Danis for a 2-1 advantage.
Mitchell then received a poke-check pass from Steve Oleksy and took off on a shorthanded breakaway, deked Danis and backhanded a shot upstairs at 13:16.
Hartford played patiently in the middle period and got one back when Conor Allen dove to slap the rebound of a Chris Bourque shot into the net at 6:22.
The Wolf Pack tied the game when Bourque snuck in near two Bears defensemen and smacked the puck inside the far post at 12:09 of the third period.
Liam O’Brien grabbed the momentum back for Hershey just 1:18 later, setting up in the slot to deflect a Mike Moore shot into the upper-right corner.
Mueller continued his big night by camping at the net front and redirecting a shot from Mike Kostka through Grubauer at 16:36 to force overtime.
Hartford would be flagged for having too many men on the ice at 11:13 of overtime, handing Hershey a prime chance to win the game. But Chad Nehring forced a turnover behind the Bears’ net, and the puck popped out in front for Mueller to snap the puck over Grubauer’s glove for the shorthanded winner.
Grubauer made 37 saves but saw his record drop to 2-3 in the postseason. Danis turned aside 34 of 38 shots and improved to 6-4.
The series heads back to the Connecticut capital for the first time on Friday, May 15 for Game Six. Fans may listen to the broadcast beginning with the M&C Foreign Car Parts pre-game show at 6:20 PM on the Bears Radio Network of affiliates WQIC-FM 100.1, WKBO-AM 1230, iHeart Radio (WHP-AM 580), online at whp580.com and HersheyBears.com.
NOTES: The Bears scratched G Keegan Asmundson, C Joel Broda, RW Stan Galiev and D Tomas Kundratek… Hartford scratched D Kodie Curran, G Cedrick Desjardins, D Dallas Jackson, G Jeff Malcolm, LW Chris McCarthy, G Jason Missiaen, RW Josh Nicholls, D Steve Spinell, LW Nick Tarnasky, LW Justin Vaive and D Daniel Walcott…Hershey finished the night 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill…Mitchell’s goal was the Bears’ league-best fourth shorthanded tally of the playoffs…Five shorthanded goals have been scored in the series, and two have been scored in both Games Three and Five…C Chandler Stephenson’s first-period goal was his first of his playoff career.