Driedger & Penalty Kill Come up Huge in 3-1 Road Win at Providence
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Springfield Thunderbirds (26-24-7-5) scored the game's final three goals behind a splendid shorthanded effort to come away with a 3-1 win over the Providence Bruins (31-22-7-2) on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Providence entered coming fresh off a pair of home-ice wins on Friday and Saturday over the Hershey Bears, both of which went beyond regulation. The Bruins came out with a purpose in the opening period, getting nine of the game's first 12 shots on goal. Included in that total was the game's opening tally during brief 4-on-4 action midway through the period.
As Anton Blidh ragged the puck along the right-wing wall, two Thunderbirds defenders followed him, allowing Trent Frederic to slip into the middle of the ice. Blidh hit the center on the feed, and Frederic in turn located Urho Vaakanainen jumping up the left-wing side, and the rookie defenseman beat Chris Driedger with a quick snapper to the stick side. The defenseman's third goal in two games against Springfield gave the Bruins the 1-0 lead at 7:19.
Springfield generated little offensively in the first half of the opening period, but Anthony Greco had a glorious chance to get the game evened up late in the period with a mini-breakaway down the right wing, but Zane McIntyre fought off the attempt to keep it 1-0. The Thunderbirds power play then got a chance in the final two minutes of the first to make it a tie score, but McIntyre and the Bruins' second-ranked PK kept the T-Birds off the board.
Much like on Friday night in Binghamton, the tide of the game swung in a matter of seconds. This time around, the Thunderbirds were benefactors after Trent Frederic rang a shot off the crossbar on a shorthanded rush. Had it gone in, Providence would have taken a 2-0 lead. Instead, the miss led to a Joel Lowry 2-on-1 rush. With Sebastian Repo looking for a pass, Lowry instead froze McIntyre and beat the goaltender with a stick-side wrist shot at 2:17 of the second.
1:26 later, Springfield rode the momentum to a tie-breaking goal. For a seventh straight game, Greco got onto the scoresheet, taking a feed on the left-wing side from Julian Melchiori and sending a rising shot over McIntyre's glove hand at 3:43 to make it a 2-1 Thunderbirds advantage.
After the Thunderbirds generated much of the offensive pressure in the opening half of the period, the Bruins responded admirably in the closing minutes, but Driedger and the defense maintained the lead, including a goal-saving dive of a block by rookie defenseman Alex Breton on Jordan Szwarz.
Driedger also rose to the occasion with two challenges and denials on break chances for Frederic and Gemel Smith, and the 2-1 score held true into the final period. Jean-Sebastien Dea put the Thunderbirds down a man when he was whistled for a controversial goaltender interference minor late in the second, and the Bruins began the third with 1:14 of power play time. Ludwig Bystrom further complicated the T-Birds' situation when he cleared a puck out of play moments into the final period to make it a 5-on-3 for the Bruins.
However, despite those two power play chances and one other man advantage opportunity later in the frame, the Springfield penalty kill did the job, improving to a sterling 31-of-32 in their last eight contests.
Springfield then picked up some much-appreciate insurance at 12:21 when Riley Stillman's point slap shot sat in the crease for Vincent Praplan to push over the goal line to bring the game to a 3-1 final score. Praplan's first as a Thunderbird also came with a secondary assist to Dea, who has now tallied points in each of his first six games with the Thunderbirds. With his game-winning goal, Greco's point streak has reached seven games, tying a T-Birds season high.
Driedger won his fifth game in his last seven outings by virtue of his 25 saves on 26 shots. Over his last 214 shots faced, Driedger has stopped 202 of them.
The Thunderbirds' weeklong road trip continues Wednesday night in a tangle with the Hershey Bears at the Giant Center at 7:00 p.m.
Springfield Thunderbirds 2019-2020 ticket memberships are on sale now and include the best benefits of being a Thunderbirds ticket holder. To learn more about memberships and single game tickets, visit www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com or call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
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