The Providence Bruins collected 3 out of a possible 4 points in Virginia this weekend in their two games against the Norfolk Admirals after they lost the 2nd game of the back-to-back weekend match-up 3-2 in the 6th round of a shootout. Michael Hutchinson made 34 saves in net for Providence while Christian Hanson and defenseman Kevan Miller scored the P-Bruins regulation goals. To see highlights of the game, click here (courtesy of the Norfolk Admirals youtube page!)
Providence’s Tyler Randell and Norfolk’s Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond wasted no time in dropping the gloves, squaring off just 7 seconds into the game. Another fight broke out only 38 seconds later between Bobby Robins and Troy Bodie. Robins leads the AHL in total penalty minutes (242) and major penalties (51).
5:32 into the 1st period, Craig Cunningham was whistled for a holding minor, putting the Admirals on the power play. Norfolk then went on the 2-man advantage 17 seconds later when Trent Whitfield was sent to join Cunningham in the penalty box for a tripping infraction. Although the month of February has seen the Providence Bruins superb penalty kill successfully kill off 31 of 33 penalties prior to last night’s game, they were unable to overcome the 2-man deficit. Norfolk’s Dan Sexton scored on a feed across the crease from Luca Caputi, with a secondary assist to Sami Vatanen. Sexton’s power play goal was the 4th of the season and came at 6:49 of the 1st period.
Providence would get their own 5-on-3 power play opportunity later in the 1st period after Norfolk’s Brandon McMillan and Nate Guenin each took slashing minors at 7:40 and 8:40 of the 1st period. Another part of Providence’s recent success had been their power play (their February power play had been 13-for-50, or 26%, before last night), but it failed them last night. They went 0-for-6 overall on the power play last night, including a full minute on the 2-man advantage.
Providence finally beat Norfolk’s Frederik Andersen in the 2nd period on Christian Hanson’s 7th of the year. The goal, which game at 7:11 of the middle frame, was assisted by Justin Florek and Bobby Robins. Providence then took the lead at 9:24 of the 3rd period when Kevan Miller scored his 1st goal of the season. Matt Bartkowski assisted on the goal, earning his 4th assist in 2 games this weekend. Ryan Spooner also had an assist on the goal, adding to his team-leading 38 points. It was Spooner’s 28th assist of the season, which puts him 2nd overall in AHL rookie assist leaders (1st among active AHL players).
Providence was unable to hold onto the lead, however. At 15:34 of the 3rd period, McMillan notched his 4th goal of the season to tie the game at 2, with assists Emerson Etem and Sexton.
The game went to a shootout in which each goaltender allowed only 1 goal through the first 5 rounds (Graham Mink scored for Providence, Luca Caputi for Norfolk). In the 6th round, the newest P-Bruin, Nicolas Tremblay, failed to score and on the next shot, Norfolk’s Jordan Hendry beat Hutchinson to win the game for the Admirals.
Norfolk goaltender earned 1st star honors, making 37 savves on 39 shots and stopping 5 out of 6 shooters in the shootout. McMillan and Sexton were named 2nd and 3rd stars.
The P-Bruins are now 37-17-0-4 on the season, good for 66 points in 52 games. They remain in 1st place in the Atlantic division, 4 points ahead of 2nd place Portland but with 1 more game played than the Pirates. Providence has still earned a point in 6 straight games (5-0-0-1 in that stretch) and are 8-1-0-1 in the last 10.
Providence faces off against the Pirates on Tuesday, February 26th in Portland, Maine. Will they be able to finish off their dominant February on an equally dominant note? They will need their power play and penalty kill to come through for them again, and they will certainly need players like Torey Krug, who was on a tear at the end of January and for the majority of February, to start putting up points again. Hopefully other leading scorers Carter Camper and Jamie Tardif, among others injured, will be returning soon as well. Stay tuned!