Following the same successful formula they utilized during the latter stages of their recent road trip, the Hershey Bears came from behind once again to defeat the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday night at Giant Center, 4-3.
Matthieu Perreault’s double minor penalty for high-sticking Toronto’s Alex Berry at 1:49 gave the Marlies the first crack of the night on the power play.
Hershey’s penalty killing unit, ranked last in the AHL entering the game, successfully killed off the first part of the Perreault sentence and more than half of the second before Toronto’s Andre Deveaux found daylight low to the stick side of Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, at 5:20, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Early in the second period, Steve Pinizzotto’s thunderous check on Toronto’s Jiri Tlusty at 1:20 drew a pool of blood from the head area of Tlusty, and also drew the attention of the Marlie’s Bates Battaglia, a former Washington Capital, who immediately sought retribution on Pinizzotto.
Although Battaglia clearly initiated the battle, referee, Chris Cozzan, apparently saw otherwise, choosing to hand out matching fighting penalties to the combatants. Tlusty did not return to the game.
Ryan Hamilton’s holding penalty in the Hershey defensive zone on Hershey’s captain, Bryan Helmer, led to the Bears finally getting on the board at 3:32, when Alexandre Giroux struck for his 51st goal of the season, and 20th strike on the power play.
With Dean Arsene out of position while trying to exact revenge on Alex Foster, who had nailed Kyle Wilson with a stiff check seconds earlier, the Marlies quickly regained the lead at 4:41 when Todd Perry beat Neuvirth.
Keith Aucoin’s turnover in the Hershey defensive zone, led to Chris Bourque’s holding penalty, and ultimately to Deveaux’s second power play marker of the affair at 9:36, giving the Marlies a 3-1 lead.
Aucoin atoned for his defensive faux pas, beating Marlies’ netminder, Justin Pogge, with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle at 13:22, to cut his team’s deficit to a single goal.
“I tried to get off as quick as I could. I don’t think he (Pogge) saw it right away. I think his defenseman screened him and he saw it at the last second, but it was too late,” said Aucoin.
Immediately after Aucoin’s goal, Kip Brennan, appearing in his first game at Giant Center since February 7th, shook things up a bit when he and former Norfolk Admiral, Jay Rosehill squared off. Brennan’s narrow victory in the tussle seemed to inspire his teammates to score 46 seconds later, tying the game at three.
Pogge contributed to his own demise by turning the puck over to the Bears’ Jay Beagle deep in Toronto’s zone. Beagle backhanded a no-look pass to Andrew Joudrey, who quickly shoveled the puck into the vacated cage at 14:11.
“Actually, I just saw the puck go by me, and I saw the goalie was still kind of in the corner,” said Beagle. “I was going to shoot it and at the last minute, I heard Joudrey yell my name and I dished it to him and he put it home.”
The teams went into the second intermission deadlocked at three, thanks largely to quality saves late in the period by Pogge (on Giroux), and Neuvirth (on Deveaux).
In the third period, there were not a lot of quality scoring chances for either side, and in fact, it was a low probability shot by Oskar Osala that sealed the deal for Hershey. Osala, after gaining the Toronto zone, unleashed a wicked wrister that sailed by the glove hand of Pogge at 8:15.
Osala, when asked if he was surprised that puck found its target, joked that this goal was not unlike many of his previous 22 tallies.
“You always ask me that after I score,” Osala laughed. “I was surprised this time because I was thinking about it, and I kind of knew I was going to shoot back to the far side. Usually, when you have time to think, it doesn’t work, but I think my wrist shot is harder than my slapshot. Coach always bugs me about that; he always tells me not to take slapshots, but to take wrist shots.”
The Bears, steeped in talent this season, proved that they don’t have to always play a full 60 minutes to come out on top as long as they rev it up when their backs are against the wall.
“We didn’t play that good the first period, and Neuvirth made some good saves for us. We came out the second period and played a good 40 minutes to end the game, and that penalty kill at the end was huge.”
Tags: Alex Berry, Alex Foster, Alexandre Giroux, Andre Deveaux, Andrew Joudrey, Bates Battaglia, Bryan Helmer, Chris Bourque, Chris Cozzan, Dean Arsene, Jay Beagle, Jay Rosehill, Jiri Tlusty, Justin Pogge, Keith Aucoin, Kip Brennan, Kyle Wilson, Matthieu Perreault, Michal Neuvirth, Oskar Osala, Ryan Hamilton, Steve Pinizzotto, Todd Perry, Toronto, Toronto Marlies