After the Providence Bruins took a convincing 3-0 series lead in the second round of the playoffs, it seemed that their place in the Conference Finals was all but guaranteed. All they had to do was win one more game. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were not ready to let their season die so easily. After allowing 12 goals in just two games, the Penguins decided it was time to make a goaltending change. Brad Thiessen came in to replace Jeff Zatkoff and that has been the change they needed.
Although the Penguins dropped game 3, it was an overtime loss and it was a much closer game for the team. The next two games were clear wins for the Penguins as Thiessen stopped 61 of 62 shots, where game 5 was a shutout. Not only did that force a game 6, but it showed how high tensions were running between the two teams. During game 5, the two teams combined for 117 penalty minutes, 74 of which came in the final 6 minutes of the game. It involved a handful of fighting majors and misconducts and also ultimately included a two game suspension for Bruins forward Graham Mink for an action where it appeared he had the intent to injure.
Game 6 came back to Providence and once again, Thiessen got the start of the Penguins. It only took about 30 seconds before the teams started pushing and shoving after the whistle. It seemed as if this could be another rough game. The first period seemed to go quickly with a lot of hard hitting and a lot of good chances for each team. It seemed like both teams were playing with an edge. The officials managed to keep a fight from breaking out and the first period ended scoreless.
Although the second period started scoreless, it would not stay that way long. Just about a minute into the middle frame, Craig Cunningham scored his third of the post season for Providence. Jamie Tardif fed Cunningham a beautiful pass that he was able to convert into a goal. The Bruins would not be able to hold onto the lead, though, as about five minutes later, the Penguins tied it up. Rookie Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin took a hard shot from the blue line that beat Niklas Svedberg to tie the score 1-1. This game-tying goal came despite the Penguins notching just 3 shots during the second.
The third period started and it was clear that Providence wanted to keep this game from going into overtime. During the third frame, the Bruins put up an impressive 20 shots on goal. But, Thiessen stood tall and came up with some impressive saves to stop all 20 shots. As a result of Providence controlling the puck so well, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton only managed 2 shots during the entire last period. When the buzzer sounded to indicate the end of regulation, the score still stood at 1-1 and the players cleared the ice for sudden death overtime.
When the teams came back out for overtime, it seemed like the momentum had shifted again. There were only three shots during the extra period, all of which came from the Penguins. The final shot came as Trevor Smith beat Svedberg to end the overtime and give his team the win. That goal tied the series up and forced the teams to meet again in Providence for game 7. The final shots were 47-18 in favor of Providence as they were only able to beat Thiessen once.
The final game of the series is set to take place at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence on Wednesday, May 22nd at 7:05pm. Whoever wins the game will continue on to meet Syracuse in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Syracuse Crunch have not lost yet this post season and appear to be a difficult team to solve.