Yep. That lead sentence pretty much says it all for how Game 4 went on Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. After a very well played game on Thursday that saw the WBS Penguins edge ahead of the Providence Bruins 2-1 in the series, Providence stormed out of the locker rooms for Game 4 as if their future was at stake.
Which, well, it kinda was.
If WBS was ready for it, they certainly didn’t look it.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) April 28, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) April 28, 2017
Two changes for WBS in Game 4, as Sahir Gill and Troy Josephs drew in for Ryan Haggerty and Adam Krause.
These was the most difficult 20 minutes to watch of the season, quite frankly. Providence made WBS look downright pedestrian at times, scoring just 1:55 into the game as a fierce forecheck forced a Teddy Blueger turnover right in front of goaltender Casey DeSmith, with Wayne Simpson waiting at the far post to slam home his first of the playoffs.
Things did not improve, as Providence’s urgency and all-out pressure was too much for WBS to handle. After killing a bench minor for too many Penguins on the ice, Oskar Sundqvist took what a majority of the 5,154 fans in attendance thought was a very soft tripping call. That was at 8:54 of the first. Providence made it 2-0 just 7 seconds later, as Colton Hargrove pushed home his first goal of the playoffs.
To add insult to injury, Providence made it 3-0 just 45 seconds from the end of the first, as Jake DeBrusk scored his second of the playoffs after Derrick Pouliot had a point shot blocked, forcing a 3 on 1 going the other way. DeBrusk led the odd man rush, but really he didn’t need anyone else with him; he just waited for the right spot to fire, and he finished beautifully.
Providence 3-0 after 20 minutes. Bruins outshot WBS 12-6.
The second period wasn’t much better, as Providence kept up the pressure to the tune of 21 more shots in the second period alone compared to WBS getting 14. WBS got three separate power plays in the second period, but were unable to convert any of them before Tommy Cross took a very high-floating rebound, settled it down, then unloaded a time bomb of a slapshot that DeBrusk tipped past DeSmith for his second goal of the night and a 4-0 lead.
WBS gave it the old college try, though, as three minutes later, Dominik Simon forced a turnover of his own in the Providence zone, then found Blueger for a one-timer goal to bring WBS back to 4-1, which is how the second period ended.
Perhaps sensing the urgency, WBS played a much better third period than the others, keeping the shot clock level at 9 each in the third, and they gave the assembled crowd some hope when Ethan Prow scored his first of the playoffs at 9:10 of the third.
That’s him with the deflection in the middle.
The crowd was alive after that one, and with defender Chris Casto taking a holding penalty just 54 seconds after the goal, it looked for all the world like the Cardiac Penguins would overcome yet another seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
Alas, it was not to be.
Final Score: Providence 4, WBS 2, series tied at 2.
Penguins forward Dominik Simon took third star honors tonight by assisting on both WBS goals. Providence’s Hargrove took second star honors with his goal in the first period, while Jake DeBrusk took top honors with two very strong goals.
What this means is, for the third time in their four postseason series over the past five years, the Penguins and Bruins will go the distance. The winner-take-all Game 5 will take place on Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, start time 3:05 pm EDT.
Elsewhere in the AHL on Friday night, two franchises met their sudden ends. First, former St. John’s captain Gabriel Dumont scored at 2:18 of overtime of Game 4 to send the Syracuse Crunch through to the North Division finals and ending this era of AHL hockey in St. John’s. The Montreal Canadiens will be moving their AHL affiliate to Laval next season.
Syracuse will take on the Toronto Marlies, who were taken to a third overtime in Game 4 by the Albany Devils before getting their series clincher from Justin Holl, his first goal of the playoffs, at 6:43 of the third overtime. This also ends AHL hockey in Albany, as the former River Rats and now Devils will be moving to Binghamton next season to replace the departing Senators affiliate.
Tonight, the only AHL game on the schedule is Lehigh Valley at Hershey, Game 4, with Hershey getting a second opportunity to close out the Phantoms at home. Should the Phantoms prevail, Game 5 would take place on Sunday in Allentown, just two hours after WBS and Providence begin their Game 5.
I’ll leave you with these two thoughts. First, from the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice’s Seth Lakso:
The Pens will have history on their side on Sun. They've gone 6-1 all-time in Gm 5s & 24-15 in elimination gms in general. 16-5 at home.— Seth Lakso (@CVSethLakso) April 29, 2017
Second, none of that history means anything if WBS doesn’t match the intensity with which Providence played their Game 4. If WBS can find the form that won them Game 3, then I foresee Game 5 to be just as memorable as their Game 7 in 2014 on this same ice. If they cannot, then another Kilpatrick Trophy-winning season will end very prematurely, and the Penguins will find themselves eliminated from their opening round series for only the second time in their history.