The WBS Penguins were 100 seconds away from a comfortable 3-1 victory in the decisive Game 3 against the Hershey Bears on Monday night. Hershey forced overtime with two extra-attacker goals 42 seconds apart in the final minutes, leading to Alex Nylander firing home his 2nd of the playoffs at 8:22 of OT to send the Penguins through to the Atlantic Division semifinals.
For the fourth consecutive playoff series against Wilkes-Barre, the series is pushed to the brink for a winner-take-all game.— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) May 9, 2022
Puck drop in 30 minutes. pic.twitter.com/WTeGTtR6eB
One change for WBS from their Game 2 lineup, as Jonathan Gruden returned to the lineup following his suspension. He replaced Anthony Angello, who was out with an injury and is day to day, per head coach J.D. Forrest.
Just as they did in Game 2, Hershey struck first, though perhaps aided by a generous interpretation of the rules.
Tap it in, Happy. Just taaaaaap it in. Give it a little tappy tap-tap-taperoo. pic.twitter.com/5825JAHPLr— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) May 9, 2022
That’s Mike Sgarbossa with the tap-in following some very liberal physical play. His first of the playoffs at 5:22 of the first was assisted by Garrett Pilon and Alex Alexeyev.
WBS started to swing the momentum from there, but it took an extremely fortuitous bounce to tie the game.
The goal is credited to defender Matt Bartkowski, but it’s 100% a Hershey own-goal, as Bartkowski’s mishit was deflected home by Hershey defender Beck Malenstyn. Filip Hållander and Valtteri Puustinen were given assists, and the first period ended 1-1. Shots were 15-13 WBS in the first 20 minutes.
The second 20 minutes were a lot more sluggish, as the Penguins were able to kill off a Cam Lee interference minor to keep the game 1-1. Hershey outshot the Penguins 9-7 in the second period for a 22-22 tie after 40 minutes.
In the third period, Pheonix Copley, who had been so solid for Hershey in Game 2 and in the first two periods of Game 3, started to blink. His first blink was to Radim Zohorna, whose rather innocuous wrist shot from just inside the blue line deflected off Copley’s glove and into the net at 4:44 of the third.
Felix Robert and Tommy Nappier were given assists.
Copley’s second blink of the period was to Sam Poulin, who scored his first goal of the playoffs at 12:05 of the third through Copley’s legs. Jordy Bellerive and Mitch Reinke assisted on the goal to put WBS up 3-1.
Hershey made their last stand with around 3:28 left in the third, as Copley left the bench for an extra attacker. It took about two minutes of extra-attacker play for Pilon to score his first of the playoffs off a beautiful, classic-Hershey cross-ice one-timer from Lucas Johansen. Bobby Nardella also got an assist.
Hershey continued to push, and with 53 seconds left, they got the equalizer.
Brett Leason.— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) May 10, 2022
that's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/in0xpoUGGM
Mike Vecchione and Aliaksei Protas assisted on Leason’s first of the playoffs, and what had seemed like a certain victory turned into a nightmare for the home side. Shots were 20-13 in the third period for WBS for a regulation total of 42-35, but extra time was still needed.
Heading into Game 3, the WBS Penguins held an all-time home record of 15-4 against Hershey in the playoffs, including a spotless 5-0 record beyond 60 minutes. Alex Nylander made absolutely sure that record wasn’t going to get spoiled.
Nylander’s second of the playoffs, assisted by Zohorna and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, sent the home crowd of 2,554 into the night happy, horns honking in the parking lot just like days of old, with the Springfield Thunderbirds waiting on the horizon.
The Hershey Bears score a pair of extra attacker goals to force OT, but Alex Nylander scored in the extra frame to give the #WBSPens a 4-3 win in the decisive Game Three of their First Round Playoff Series on Monday night.— X - WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) May 10, 2022
Postgame Highlights are courtesy of the @PALottery pic.twitter.com/3Xfj4M3deX
WBS goalie Nappier added a career-best 34 saves on 37 shots to his assist for what I would consider to be fourth-star honors. Copley finished with 42 saves on 46 shots in the losing effort.
Third star went to Poulin for his goal; second star went to Zohorna for his goal and assist; top honors went to Nylander for the overtime winner.
With Hershey dispatched, attention now turns to Springfield, who announced on Monday morning that should WBS advance, the first game of the best-of-5 division semifinal would be moved to Wednesday, May 11 instead of the originally scheduled Tuesday, May 10. As good as their word, the division semifinal schedule is as follows:
- Game 1 at Springfield Wednesday, May 11, 7:05 pm start
- Game 2 at Springfield Thursday, May 12, 7:05 pm start
- Game 3 at WBS Sunday, May 15, 5:05 pm start
- Game 4 at WBS Monday, May 16, 7:05 pm start
- Game 5 at Springfield Wednesday, May 18, 7:05 pm start