After getting thoroughly pasted on home ice on Saturday to fall behind 2-1 in their Atlantic Division Final series with the Hershey Bears, the WBS Penguins received a huge shot in the arm (literally) as Tom Sestito was returned to WBS from Pittsburgh on Sunday morning. There is little dispute among WBS fans and media that Sestito's physical presence, as well as that which he inspired among his teammates, played a considerable role in WBS's first-round sweep of Providence. It would remain to be seen whether such impact could also be had against Hershey.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) May 9, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) May 9, 2016
Several lineup changes for the Penguins prior to Game 4, as Sestito slotted right into the fourth line, and Sahir Gill took Tyler Biggs's place in the lineup. Adam Krause sat to make room for Sestito. Also, the defense welcomed back Ryan Parent, restoring the three pairings to their full strength. Lastly, WBS switched goalies for Game 4, going with Tristan Jarry between the pipes over Casey DeSmith.
For Hershey, Nathan Walker drew back into the lineup in place of Chandler Stephenson, who picked up an injury in Game 3
The night got off to a rather interesting start...
And we’re off to a very friendly start. pic.twitter.com/BpdMLmmJrg— David Straub (@dps2002) May 9, 2016
I've been attending hockey games for roughly 18 years, 15 as a season ticket holder for these Penguins, and that's the first time I've ever seen the teams come together for warmups like that. Almost as if West Side Story had come to life, or the Michigan football team had danced too close to the Ohio State logo.
Naturally, Big Tom was in the middle of it, his ire focused squarely on Hershey's Liam O'Brien. Nothing much came from these two the rest of the night.
The first period was played very evenly, with some good chances on each side as Jarry stopped a Chris Bourque faceoff slapshot with his pad, and his counterpart Justin Peters robbing Carter Rowney from in close with his glove. Hershey ended the first period on a power play, as Steve Oleksy took one of the best interference penalties I've seen all season to stop a very dangerous Bears chance. First period shots favored Hershey 6-4, but no score...a definite win for the Penguins.
Whereas the first period was allowed to be "have at it" by the officials, the second was decidedly not. Each team received one powerplay in the first, but Hershey got three in the second to WBS's one. First, WBS had to kill off a Sestito interference penalty; then, as Dustin Gazley took a hooking penalty, the Penguins were finally able to get the Hershey defense moving around on the PK, out of the shooting lanes, and allowing the WBS forwards to gain favorable position. This was the result.
That's the captain, Tom Kostopoulos, redirecting a beautiful centering feed from Will O'Neill for his third goal in these playoffs at 5:53 of the second.
The good times did not last, though, as Josh Archibald took a high sticking penalty just 1:20 after the goal, which was then followed by a Kael Mouillierat elbowing call 41 seconds later. While Hershey did not score on the 5 on 3, they did connect on the 5 on 4. Tristan Jarry had to make three saves in quick succession at one point, but his third save brought him far out of the net, allowing Carter Camper to slam the equalizer home into essentially an empty net. The second period ended 1-1, with total shots 21-13 to Hershey.
The third period was pivotal in the Penguins' season. Would they catch the bounce they needed to level the series, or would Hershey slip through their fingers to take a 3-1 lead back to the formidable GIANT Center?
WBS did all they could in the third period to take the win. Bolstered by three power plays in the third, the Penguins unleashed 14 shots on goal for a three-period total of 27, but to his credit, Justin Peters shut down everything that got through the suddenly porous Hershey defense to keep the game 1-1 at the end of regulation.
The end of regulation saw a minor dust-up, as Steve Oleksy took a slash at Hershey captain Garrett Mitchell, and Mitchell responding with a punch that sent Oleksy to the ice. Both were given penalties, leading to overtime starting 4 on 4.
At the start of overtime, Jake Guentzel's relentless forecheck forced Madison Bowey into a turnover in his own end. To cover, Bowey did everything under the sun to slow up Guentzel, leading to a holding penalty just 33 seconds in. WBS called their timeout to set up, and while they did not strike on the 4 on 3...
...they did strike on the 5 on 4, with two seconds to spare. That's Will O'Neill on point with the initial shot, which Peters saved, but the big man in the middle is Tom Sestito, who flicked the subtlest of passes to a diving Karl Mouillierat for his first playoff goal, the game-winner, and WBS's fourth OT victory in these playoffs in as many tries to send the crowd of 3,568 into delirium.
Final score: Penguins 2, Bears 1, a series tied at 2, and three Party Hards.
Tristan Jarry ended with 22 saves on 23 shots for his first victory in these playoffs and well-earned third star honors. Kostopoulos's goal in the second got him second honors, but of course the top honors of the evening would go to the player known affectionately as "the rat", Kael Mouillierat, with the game winner in overtime.
The series now shifts back to GIANT Center in Hershey for Game 5 on Wednesday, then back to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for a now-guaranteed Game 6 on Friday the 13th. If the teams need Game 7, it will be back in Hershey on Sunday, May 15th.
Strap in, folks. I have a feeling that this ride is going to get a lot bumpier before it's over.