The Hershey Bears (the Washington Capitals American Hockey League affiliate) defeated the Providence Bruins, 2-1, before 7,460 at the Giant Center on Sunday evening to even their best of seven Eastern Conference Finals series at one game apiece. Games three through five are in Providence starting this Friday, May 22 and ending on Sunday, May 24th. If there is a game six it will be in Hershey next Wednesday, May 27th.
Providence had the advantage in play early in the first period and the Bears did not even get a shot on net until more than 10 minutes were gone in the contest. Bears goalie Michal Neuvirth (25 saves) was very good at the outset when he needed to be and he also made a nice glove save in the closing seconds to seal the deal for the Bears. Neuvirth was Washington’s second round pick (34th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
This game was scoreless for two periods. The shot totals were 6-5 Providence in the opening period and 21-10 in favor of the Bears in period two when Hershey started to take over the play and dominate puck possession. Overall the Bears outshot the Bruins 39-26 for the game. Hershey would have had a lead sooner if not for solid goaltending from Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (37 saves), who was the 21st first player taken in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto (he was traded to Boston on June 24, 2006 for Andrew Raycroft).
Hershey erupted for two goals in the first seven minutes of the third period breaking the scoreless tie at 3:21 of the final period when forward Andrew Jourdey (Caps 8th round pick, 249th overall, in 2003 NHL Entry Draft), positioned in the slot, perfectly deflected a Tyler Sloan point blast by Rask. Oskar Osala (Caps 4th round draft choice in 2006) also drew an assist on the play.
Alexandre Giroux, the 2008-09 AHL MVP who dominates at this level and had a goal and an assist and was +4 in 12 games with the Caps this season, scored what would wind up being the game winning goal on a power play when he received a pass from Chris Bourque (Caps 2nd round pick, 33rd overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft) and while attempting to center it across the goalmouth from the left wing boards the puck deflected into the net past Rask. Graham Mink, who was a physical force in the contest, added an assist on Giroux’s tally.
Providence would make this interesting late by scoring with 35 seconds left on a Brad Marchand power play blast (Darren Reid was off for elbowing).
Here are some other notes and nuggets on the contest:
Bourque was very good tonight and he had seven shots on goal. He made a very impressive defensive play on Kirk MacDonald in third period, poking the puck away from the right winger when it appeared he had some speed and was moving into a prime scoring position.
Defenseman John Carlson (Washington’s 1st round pick, 27th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft) had a very solid game paired with Sloan. Carlson had significant ice time and really is developing quickly. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I really liked him at last July’s Capitals development camp and he played well in training camp last fall. An NHL scout, who runs his team’s draft, had good words to say about him after Washington selected him last summer. Former Capital Dale Hunter clearly did an outstanding job coaching Carlson in London all season (the Knights were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual Ontario Hockey League Champions, The Windsor Spitfire).
I watched this game on the internet and was stuck with the Providence audio feed. The Bruins radio announcer was upset with the imbalance in power plays that were called by referee Terry Koharski (Don’s brother). Hershey had seven PPs to just two for Providence. He may have had a minor beef in that department as I saw a couple of things that could have been called on the Bears that were let go, however, after the first period this game was dominated by Hershey and they earned every man advantage they received.
The Bruins are coached by former Capital and Baltimore Skipjack, Rob Murray, who took over last season when Scott Gordon was hired to coach the New York Islanders. Murray, who was a Washington 3rd round choice in 1985, bounced between Baltimore and Washington between 1988 and 1991 before being claimed by the Minnesota North Stars and traded the next day to the Winnipeg Jets. Murray’s assistant coach is Bruce Cassidy, who was the disastrous head coach of the Caps in 2002-03 taking a talented team to a playoff birth before being fired in December of 2003 after an 8-18-1-1 record that season.
Washington’s first round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (5th overall), defenseman Karl Alzner, is still out with an injury suffered in game four of the previous series against Wilkes-Barre Scranton.
Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau was in attendance on Sunday.