Four games played. One blowout win for each on the opponent's ice, one tightly-contested win on home ice for each. With this as the backdrop, the WBS Penguins and Hershey Bears contested Game 5 of their Atlantic Division Final series at GIANT Center on Wednesday night, as the Bears looked to defend their newly-retaken home ice and the Penguins looking to win more games at GIANT Center in this series than they had done in their entire history.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) May 11, 2016
Expected #WBSPens D-pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) May 11, 2016
Lineup changes for WBS coming into Game 5 included the return to the lineup of Dominik Simon after missing 3 games due to being boarded by Liam O'Brien late in Game 1. On defense, Niclas Andersen missed Game 5 due to injury, with Harrison Ruopp replacing him. Tristan Jarry started in goal, having earned another start in net as a result of his Game 4 victory.
The game opened with fireworks, as the Penguins' Tom Sestito and the Bears' Liam O'Brien took their differences out of the social networking world and onto the ice just two seconds in.
Early fireworks between Sestito on O'Brien pic.twitter.com/0trGH06Ujg— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) May 11, 2016
Five minutes each for fighting, Sestito an additional 10 for continuing the altercation, and off we go.
Despite WBS gaining an early power play due to goalie interference on Nathan Walker, they were unable to convert. The crucial first goal of the game did not favor the Penguins...
Impressive effort there by the Bears' Carter Camper, following a deflected shot behind the net, forcing Harrison Ruopp into a turnover, then wrapping it around past Jarry. 1-0 Bears.
The Penguins then proceeded to take three straight minors in the second half of the first period. First, Daniel Sprong sat for tripping at 13:30 of the first, a penalty the Penguins dispatched. Just 15 seconds later, though, Carter Rowney sat for tripping, and 1:06 into that kill, Steve Oleksy sat for slashing, giving Hershey a 5 on 3 for 54 seconds. Hershey called their timeout, sensing a huge chance to expand their lead, and they capitalized.
As Carter Camper was hauled down, he dished the puck to a trailing Zach Sill, and the former WBS Penguin put a nasty move on Ryan Parent to center to Jakub Vrana for Vrana's 4th goal of the playoffs. 2-0 Bears after one period, despite a 13-8 shot advantage for WBS.
The second period featured more of the same at first...
Sean Collins for 3-0, and it looked for all the world like the Bears would romp once again.
The captain of the Penguins, though, had other ideas.
That is indeed Tom Kostopoulos trailing the play to slam home a rebound for the first WBS goal.
Curiously enough, it was after this goal, not that of Sean Collins, that coach Clark Donatelli replaced Tristan Jarry in net with Casey DeSmith. Between the Kostopoulos goal and the goalie switch, the Penguins were spurred on, as nearly 5 minutes after Kostopoulos opened the Penguins' account, Josh Archibald brought the Penguins to within one goal. The second period ended 3-2 Hershey, with overall shots still favoring WBS 23-15 after two periods.
The third period began with Tom Sestito serving the final seconds of an elbowing minor he took at 19:02 of the second. Just three minutes after the Penguins killed off his penalty, the unthinkable happened.
That is indeed the big man himself taking a pass from Teddy Blueger and burying the equalizer. Sestito then proceeded to take a misconduct penalty and a game misconduct penalty for taunting the Bears' bench after scoring the goal.
It looked as though the momentum would continue for WBS, as Tyler Lewington for Hershey was called for cross checking at 4:09 of the third period, but the Achilles' heel for the Penguins this postseason struck at the most inopportune time, as the high-pressure penalty killing of Zach Sill led to another power play turnover for WBS and their fourth shorthanded goal allowed this postseason, by far the most in the playoffs.
Sill's tiebreaker at 5:57 of the third would be all that the Bears needed, as they tacked on an empty-net goal through Ryan Bourque for the final margin of victory, 5-3, and a 3-2 series lead. The game closed with Steve Oleksy and Garrett Mitchell throwing hands and Sestito getting his fourth misconduct of the game, a second game misconduct for abuse of officials to close with 47 penalty minutes by himself.
At the end of the day, Hershey still won where it counts. Final shots on goal were 32-25 WBS, with Justin Peters making 29 saves to solidify the win and Casey DeSmith making 10 saves on 11 shots to take the loss in relief of Jarry. Third star honors: Josh Archibald, with a goal and an assist. Second star honors: Carter Camper, goal and an assist. Top honors: Zach Sill, with the game-winning shorthanded goal and two assists.
WBS will look to respond on Friday the 13th, as they will stare down the barrel of elimination for the first time this postseason. Thing is, staring down the barrel of elimination has historically brought out the absolute best in the WBS Penguins. We shall soon see if they do so again.