Prior to the opening of the first-round series between the Providence Bruins and the WBS Penguins, Bruins head coach Kevin Dean told the Providence Journal, “I’m absolutely sick of losing to them″. Dean was behind the Providence bench as an assistant for all three of WBS’s prior series victories over the Bruins, so his frustration at the past and focus on the present were both palpable and justified.
After the first game, he and his team have started the road to revenge on the right foot.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) April 21, 2017
In a surprise move, Tom Sestito, expected to play on the fourth line in a more physical role, played the vast majority of the game on the top line, alongside Kevin Porter and Tom Kostopoulos.
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) April 21, 2017
The Game 1 goalie matchup, as expected, was Casey DeSmith vs. Zane McIntyre, a contest of two of the AHL’s top regular season goalies.
Early control went to WBS through the first few minutes, but Providence was able to get in its own dangerous chances. The first penalty went to Providence, as Peter Cehlarik sat for high sticking at 5:23 of the first, but the Bruins were able to dispatch it. WBS took its first penalty at 11:22 when Jarrett Burton took a slashing call during a Providence flurry of shots, but the result here was far different as Jake DeBrusk was able to slam the rebound of a Peter Mueller shot past DeSmith to put the Bruins ahead at 12:11 of the first.
Providence maintained control for a good chunk of the rest of the period, turning what was an 8-3 shot deficit after the first half of the period to a 15-12 advantage at the conclusion of the first. Providence 1, WBS 0 after 20.
WBS came out of the locker room back in control of the proceedings, and they got what sounded like a rather generous penalty call at 6:24 of the second as Austin Czarnik sat for tripping. Providence was able to turn this penalty aside as well, highlighted by a dynamite Zane McIntyre save on a Derrick Pouliot/Jean-Sebastien Dea 2 on 0.
At 11:26 of the second, Derrick Pouliot took a holding penalty to give Providence their second PP of the game, but unlike the first powerplay given to the Bruins, the league’s best PK in the regular season was able to dispatch the second penalty. WBS continued to work, though, and they were able to break through the Providence defense and tie the game at 16:34 of the second as a shot from the half-wall deflected into the net off Jean-Sebastien Dea’s hip, giving Dea the first playoff goal of his career. David Warsofsky, the former Providence Bruin, and Tim Erixon were given the assists.
The period ended 1-1 after 40 minutes, but thanks to Tom Sestito taking a roughing penalty in between matching unsportsmanlike conduct calls to Erixon and Providence’s Chris Porter, WBS was forced to start the third period with 1:28 of penalty time to kill. Shots were 10-8 WBS in the second, for a two-period total of 23-22 to Providence.
WBS was able to dispatch the abbreviated PP to start the third period and were rewarded with their own PP soon thereafter, as Ryan Fitzgerald sat for hooking at 3:05 of the third. WBS was unable to convert, and in fact brought an early end to their advantage by sending too many Penguins out at once. Providence would make them pay, as Danton Heinen scored on the ensuing Bruins PP at 6:12 of the third to restore their one-goal advantage at 2-1.
Just 22 seconds later, Frank Corrado took an interference penalty to put Providence on another advantage. WBS killed off that advantage, and despite a near-goal with 56.7 seconds to go that was called not a goal on video review, WBS was never able to get the equalizer. When the referees called Kevin Porter for high sticking with 32.6 seconds to go, that all but sealed the fate for the Penguins on this night.
Providence 2, WBS 1. Final shots on goal were 33-31 Bruins, who now lead the series 1-0. The WBS penalty kill, the league’s best during the regular season, only repelled four of six Providence opportunities (with one of those taking up the final 33 seconds of the game), while the WBS power play did not convert any of its three chances.
Third star honors were given to Providence goalie Zane McIntyre, stopping 30 of 31 shots he faced. Second star honors were awarded to WBS’s Jean-Sebastien Dea for his equalizer in the second period, but top honors went to Providence’s Danton Heinen for his game-winning power play goal in the third period.
A suddenly massive Game 2 takes place Sunday at 3:05 pm in Providence. Without a split in Providence, WBS would be tasked with winning three home games in four days to survive the first round...the exact same position WBS put Providence in last playoffs before sweeping them.