Thursday night after Providence’s tough 2-1 overtime loss, Austin Czarnik said that the Bruins needed to “come out harder” in order to pick up a win against a scrappy Hershey team.
Come out harder is exactly what they did, and this time, the results were in their favor.
Chris Porter potted the eventual winner late in the second while Alex Grant netted his first goal of the postseason and Zane McIntyre had to make just 10 saves as the Providence Bruins rebounded with a 2-1 win over the Hershey Bears to knot the series at two games apiece on Friday night.
As they had Thursday night, Providence outhit, outhustled and outplayed the Bears, but in this game, Providence was able to clean up some of the flaws that haunted them in Game 3.
For starters, they finally snapped an 0-for-11 power play drought with Alex Grant wristing one past Pheonix Copley on Providence’s first man-advantage tally of the series at 2:04 of the second. Setting up at the top of the point, Grant dished the puck low and cycled his way to the right faceoff dot. Peter Mueller would then hit an open Grant and Providence’s highest-scoring d-man during the regular season fired it by Copley for his first of the playoffs.
Providence didn’t enjoy the lead for too long, as 3:47 later Dustin Gazley tipped in a Christian Djoos shot from the point to tie the game up at 1-1.
The game continued to go back and forth, with Providence clearly getting the better chances, including a Tommy Cross shot that hit the post about midway through the period and Anton Blidh getting stoned on a two-on-one break and power-play try at 16:23.
But with under a minute to play in the middle period, the P-Bruins finally had the puck bounce their way. Noel Acciari pounced on a loose puck, kick it to his blade and fire a shot off the post. Porter was right there for the rebound though as he swiped the puck into a gaping net to give the Baby B’s the 2-1 lead with just 42 ticks left in the second frame.
“Kind of a turnover by [Hershey] and it went out to Chris Breen and I was lucky to be hanging out there by the goal behind their ‘D,'” Porter said.
“The puck slipped behind two defenders and I saw Noel [Acciari] make a nice play out of the corner of my eye kick the puck from his skate to his stick, and fortunate enough for me, the puck landed back on my tape and I took a couple swings at it and plant it.”
Acciari, who was credited with the assist on Porter’s game-winner, was also relieved that the puck was able to find it’s way into the back of the net after being unable to cash in on a great chance.
“We got it up to [Chris Breen] up top, got the puck through to [Chris Porter] and ‘Ports’ gave it to me, and I just kicked it to my stick and it went off the post and Ports just stuck around front and…gets the game winner,” Acciari stated. “As I said, [in front of the net] is where the goals are going to happen in playoff hockey, so good for him for staying there.”
On this night, Providence was able to finish, as Czarnik insisted that they needed to do on Thursday. Staving off any chance Hershey had of coming from behind again, Providence, who outshot the Bears 39-11 in the game, allowed only three shots on goal in the final stanza and spent a considerable amount of time in its attacking end.
The penalty-kill, which gave up the tying and winning goals on Thursday, both by Chris Bourque, came up huge early in the third. After Ryan Fitzgerald was called for holding at 2:17, Providence did not give Hershey much room to operate, holding their Bears to no shots during the man-advantage. The Baby B’s caught a break when Garrett Pilon was set up nicely to McIntyre’s left but missed the net.
Providence continued to hold off the Bears. After a desperate Hershey shot from the point missed well wide, the clock hit triple zeroes and the P-Bruins lifted their sticks to salute the crowd after tying the series up with Game 5 scheduled for Sunday at 3:05 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
“Give credit to our guys, it was frustrating last night and it appeared to be getting a little frustrating tonight,” Providence coach Kevin Dean said about the Game 4 win. “We had a real good second period, we scored, they came back and scored pretty quickly, and we didn’t let down so good for our guys in that regard. We’ve got four lines going, which, when you play three games in four nights, that’s important.”
Providence was without Sean Kuraly, who missed Friday’s matchup with a lower-body injury and had Fitzgerald step in his place. Per Dean, Kuraly is unlikely to play on Sunday.
Hershey lost starting goalie Pheonix Copley, who had been giving Providence fits with his outstanding play this series, to an apparent leg injury after Porter’s game-winner.