It was a night not only Hershey Bears fans have waited for, but also Washington Capitals fans. With the NHL lacking a Collective Bargaining Agreement since September 16, Capitals fans stormed the gates of Verizon Center for the first time this season to view an American Hockey League Showcase.
With the season series tied at 1-1 entering Thursday, the Hershey Bears battled the Norfolk Admirals in our Nation’s Capital. Ryan Potulny scored his first goal of the season which proved to be the game-winner at the 4:26 mark of the third period to give the Bears a 2-1 lead, and eventual win.
Before most fans could open their popcorn, only 10 seconds into the game the Admirals tallied their first and only goal of the game. Brandon McMillan snapped a shot passed Braden Holtby’s glove hand to give his squad the early 1-0 lead.
Despite excellent puck movement on all three power plays in the period for Hershey, it was Evan Barlow who tallied for the Bears while even strength. Barlow snapped a quick shot through Frederik Andersen after a nice set up by Zach Hamill at the 13:54 mark. Hershey carried a 13-8 shot advantage into the locker room after 20 minutes with the score knotted at 1-1.
Norfolk out played the Bears in the middle frame, but could not hit pay-dirt in the frame on Holtby. The score remained 1-1 after 40 minutes with shots at 20-19 in favor of Hershey.
Into the final frame, both teams looked for the decisive go-ahead tally. Ryan Potulny proved to be the hero, as he unleashed a sharp-angle one-timer from the left face off circle into the net, to send Verizon Center into a frenzy with 15:34 remaining. Despite being shutout on eight power play chances, the Bears continuously threatened while on the man-advantage with great puck movement and dangerous chances on frame.
Braden Holtby went on to stop 26 consecutive shots after yielding the game’s first goal on Norfolk’s first shot. Similar to his playoff performance in a Capitals’ uniform last Spring, Holtby was nothing but clutch when he was needed the most. With Norfolk threatening to tie the game in the dying seconds, he robbed two point-blank chances in the final minute to secure a 2-1 win in Washington D.C.