This season, the Providence Bruins have twice hosted the Worcester Sharks and twice yielded a pair of power-play goals along with a pair of points in the standings to their visiting rivals. In both cases, the final tally was a one-goal difference.
They will have their third hack at Worcester on Sunday afternoon, once again in their own domain at the Dunkin Donuts Center. This time, they had best strive to cut back on the mutual rough stuff that is typical of this frequent Atlantic Division matchup.
They nearly had it right during their previous meeting precisely three weeks to the date of the next Baby Bs-Baby Sharks faceoff. Providence had committed only one penalty through the first two periods and was safeguarding a 3-1 lead at the 40-minute mark.
Then Lane MacDermid, a fourth-year enforcer who is capable of providing more offense than his game log suggests, was cited for elbowing at 5:28 of the closing frame. His sentence was cut short along with his team’s two-goal lead less than a minute later.
Then Jordan Caron, presumably a would-be Boston regular if not for the NHL lockout, went off for unsportsmanlike conduct at 10:01. He, too, came back on earlier than his party would have hoped when his shorthanded mates authorized the equalizer at 11:22.
With its newfound momentum, Worcester proceeded to pile up a 6-2 edge in the overtime shooting gallery, mollifying Michael Hutchinson in the Bruins cage. A 3-2 scoring differential in the subsequent shootout completed the Sharks’ come-from-behind, 4-3 triumph.
Or, putting it more bluntly, it completed the P-Bruins’ fall-from-ahead, 4-3 falter.
Comparatively speaking, there was solace to be had in that they at least nabbed a point via the regulation tie. That much could not be said of the season-series opener.
Nine nights prior, in the same matchup on the same synthetic pond, Providence and Worcester combined for 70 penalty minutes and bagged two power-play goals apiece.
The Bruins did not exactly detonate their discipline in that Nov. 2 tilt, seeing as they had twice as many power plays. But the Sharks were decidedly more effective with their special teams, Bracken Kearns inserting two unanswered conversions to morph a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 advantage, enough for Worcester to subsist en route to a 3-2 regulation triumph.
Kearns’ first goal came 67 seconds after Justin Florek was whistled for tripping. Florek’s infraction was caught only 94 seconds after Carter Camper had deleted a 1-0 deficit for the Bruins with his own power-play conversion.
Kearns’ second goal was scored with two Bruins blueliners in the bin, Colby Cohen for tripping and the heavily leaned-on veteran Garnet Exelby waiting out a 10-minute misconduct.
Had he avoided that lengthy sentence, Exelby could have been available to kill Cohen’s penalty.
Had Florek restrained himself the period prior, the complexion of the game could have been thoroughly different at that point. Providence may have maintained the momentum that Camper’s equalizer should have spawned.
Delete one penalty here (i.e. on the Nov. 2 scoresheet) and another one there (Nov. 11) and Providence may have one or two additional points to its credit, Worcester one or two fewer.
As it happens, they shall enter their Sunday afternoon “three-match” at The Dunk with an identical three-point differential in both the standings and the season series, each in the Sharks’ favor.
To ensure their odds of closing the gap, the Bruins must not let emotions boil over and leave this one open to special teams. Neither should they be putting too many players in the box even for matching, five-minute fighting sentences.
They will need their collective energy and their individual bodies―whether they are brawny, quick or crafty―available at all times to help tip the scale on the scoreboard.