It’s only fitting, perhaps, that the first round playoff series between the WBS Penguins and the Providence Bruins would go the distance. They went the distance in 2013, when WBS pulled back an 0-3 series deficit to win. They went the distance in 2014, when WBS nearly gave back a 5-0 lead in the third period of Game 7 to win 5-4. After two close games in Providence and one deserved win each in Wilkes-Barre, only a tiebreaker Game 5 could settle this one.
Expected #WBSPens Lines:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) April 30, 2017
Expected #WBSPens D-Pairings:— Mike O'Brien (@MikeOBrienWBS) April 30, 2017
Two changes for WBS from Game 4, as Troy Josephs was removed in favor of Ryan Haggerty and Sahir Gill was promoted to the top line, with Tom Sestito dropping to the fourth line.
The biggest thing that did in WBS in Game 4 was a very slow start. Providence came flying out of the gates in Game 4, getting the first goal within the first two minutes and ending the first period with 3 goals. WBS improved upon that start in a massive way in Game 5, controlling play from the outset and eventually outshooting Providence 21-8 in the first period.
Unfortunately, they made one mistake, a recurring mistake in this series. Leaving too many Penguins on the ice. For the third time, WBS took the bench minor, and Providence made WBS pay in just 9 seconds.
That’s all it took, really. One blink, one quick strike from Providence, and WBS was forced to press the game from that point. Despite getting a double-minor for high-sticking taken by Providence captain Tommy Cross just 19 seconds after the goal, as well as an abbreviated power play in the second due to a Colton Hargrove hook, WBS just could not find a way to break down McIntyre.
After 40 minutes, the shot board stood at 30-19 WBS.
WBS turned up the pressure again in the third, boosted by another minor taken by Tommy Cross for holding, but everything they threw at McIntyre continued to be repelled. WBS led the shot board 46-25 with 9:06 to go, when Providence threw the dagger.
That’s Danton Heinen’s second of the game and fourth of the postseason to put Providence ahead 2-0.
To their credit, WBS did not quit.
Just 1:37 after Heinen’s second, and with Alex Grant in the box for holding, Jean-Sebastien Dea roofed his second of the playoffs to draw WBS back to within 1 on the 47th Penguins shot of the game.
WBS threw everything they had at the Bruins over the last 5:23 of the game, finishing with a team record 51 shots on goal, but McIntyre stopped them all.
FINAL SCORE: Providence 2, WBS 1.
Providence forward Jordan Szwarz earned third star honors by assisting on both Providence goals. Danton Heinen won second star honors for his two goals, but Zane McIntyre was the well-deserved first star with 50 saves on 51 shots.
Put simply: Providence earned its vengeance. They came into the home of the team with the best regular season record in the AHL and won two straight games to eliminate the Kilpatrick Trophy winners in the first round. Providence has earned the right to contest the Atlantic Division finals, and awaiting them will be the Hershey Bears, who eliminated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms with a 3-2 win in Game 5 last night.
As for the WBS Penguins...
Pens record for shots on goal in a regulation playoff game before today was 44 (May 4, 2011 vs. CHA). They finished today w/ 51.— Seth Lakso (@CVSethLakso) April 30, 2017
Team record for shots in a regulation playoff game, yet they could not put more than 1 past the goalie in front of them. WBS played exactly the game they needed to play in Game 5 to advance, but they ran into the best version of Zane McIntyre I’ve seen all season, and so their Calder Cup quest is finished.
There will be plenty of questions to ask and answer in the weeks and months ahead, chief among them the future of team captain Tom Kostopoulos, but all that matters right now is this. In their quest to “make playoffs great again” (their controversial playoff slogan for this season), WBS managed only to lose their first playoff series for the second time in their history (2010, swept out of the first round by Albany), as well as become the first AHL regular season champion since the 1995-96 Albany River Rats to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
See you in October for season 19.