It’s been 7 games since Christian Hanson has played for the Providence Bruins, but he didn’t miss a step when he rejoined the lineup tonight in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Hanson had a goal to tie the game in the 3rd period, sending the game to a shootout, where his 8th round goal clinched win number 41 of the season for Providence.
The gritty BuzzSaw Line was happily reunited – Hanson, Bobby Robins, and Justin Florek – and provided all the scoring for the P-Bruins, who went 0-for-7 on the power play and gave up 2 power play goals to the Penguins. The team was shorthanded with a last minute scratch to leading scorer Ryan Spooner, and although Torey Krug was sent back to the AHL after practicing with Boston this morning, he was not able to join Providence in Wilkes-Barre in time. Without their top scorers in the lineup and the other top scorers invisible on the scoresheet, the BuzzSaw line got the job done.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opened the scoring up at 13:15 of the 1st period on a power play goal from Dylan Reese, who netted his 7th goal of the season with Alex Khokhlachev sitting in the penalty box. Reese’s goal was assisted by Riley Holzapfel and Trevor Smith.
The Bruins tied the game up late in the 1st period on a goal from the most unlikely of sources – the excellent Bobby Robins. Robins got his 4th goal of the season at 18:37 of the 1st assisted by Florek.
The Penguins got a 5-on-3 power play opportunity in the latter half of the 2nd period when Robins was in the box serving a minor for charging and Garnet Exelby joined him with an interference penalty. Reese got his 2nd goal of the game with this 2-man advantage, his 8th goal of the season, assisted by Smith and Beau Bennett at 15:01 of the 2nd.
Hanson scored his 10th goal of the season to tie the game at 2 4:58 into the 3rd period, with an assist to Robins. Although Providence would get a full 2 minute 5-on-3 late in the 3rd period, they were unable to capitalize, and the game went to overtime.
Niklas Svedberg turned aside 4 shots in overtime, making his save total on the night 26 saves on 28 shots faced. Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen made 26 saves on 28 shots as well. In the shootout, both goaltenders were perfect through 6 rounds. Thiessen stopped Bruins top scorers who failed to provide scoring all night – Craig Cunningham, Max Sauve, Jamie Tardif, Khokhlachev, Carter Camper, and Trent Whitfield.
Svedberg, too, stopped 6 shooters, but at the start of the 7th round, the Penguins’ Chris Collins beat Svedberg. Florek had to score to send the shootout to an 8th round. With one assist already on the night, and +2 rating and leading all skaters with 6 shots on net, Florek came up big with a goal in the shootout.
On to the 8th round, the Penguins put out shooter Adam Payerl. When he failed to beat Svedberg, Hanson was given the opportunity to clinch the win for Providence. And he did.
Robins was awarded 3rd star honors; Reese 2nd star; and Hanson was the 1st star in his 1st game back. He helped propel the Bruins to the top of the Eastern Conference, as the win – now giving them a record of 41-20-5 in 66 games – gives them 87 points. With a loss in overtime tonight, the Syracuse Crunch have 87 points as well, but have 1 more game played and 2 fewer wins. They are also tied with the Texas Stars for 1st place in the entire league. The Providence Bruins aren’t too shabby.
Svedberg’s win gives him 32 on the season – only 1 shy of the great record Tuukka Rask posted the last time Providence made the playoffs in 2008-2009. That year, Rask went 33-20-4. With 10 games left in the season, Svedberg is 32-7-2.
As the standings are right of this moment, the Providence Bruins would face the Hershey Bears in the 1st round of the playoffs. A good sense for how that playoff series might go can be seen tomorrow night when Providence takes on the Bears in Hershey for the 1st meeting between the two teams this season. This will be a must-see game, so consider going to the AHL website and checking out AHL live if you can’t physically be at the game. It’s gonna be a big game!