The Hershey Bears closed out the second weekend of March with their final divisional match up this month. Looking to bounce back after a disappointing two game stretch in Norfolk, the Bears coughed up a late 2-1 lead and fell 3-2 on regulation after failing to kill off back-to-back penalties in the final four minutes.
Similar to the night before in Hampton Roads, the Bears trailed 1-0 at first intermission due to a horrible turnover. Last night, Dany Sabourin fanned on a pass attempt while looking to kill off the final second of a Dmitry Orlov penalty.
At the game’s 9:59 mark, Hershey earned their first power play chance of the night against the league’s top scoring penalty kill unit. While camped in the offensive zone, Jeff Taffe sent a blind pass at the point to Orlov. Rather than staying on his feet and skating back to retrieve the puck in neutral ice, Orlov lunged in attempt to continue play in the offensive end. His diving save was not successful leading to a Senators’ 2-on-0 shorthanded rush on Philipp Grubauer.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau finished the play for his sixth goal of the season after receiving a short, crisp pass from Corey Cowick. The shorthanded tally was the B-Sens 16th SHG of the 2012-13 campaign.
Into the second period the Bears rebounded by dominating the Senators in offensive zone. Hershey carried a 18-8 shot advantage and tallied twice to take a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Both Peter LeBlanc and Casey Wellman capitalized for the Bears on AHL rookie goaltender Marc Cheverie.
But during the final period of a three games in three nights stretch, the Bears began playing defensive, dump and chase, plain boring hockey. Against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the B-Sens eventually turned the tide on the Chocolate and White.
Ryan Stoa was rightfully called for tripping with 3:43 remaining in regulation after hauling a man down in the defensive corner to the left on Grubauer. Only six seconds into the man advantage, Shane Prince scored on a perfect deflection in front of the net to draw the game even at 2-2.
Next with 2:03 left on the clock, Patrick McNeill was sent to the sin-bin for a slashing infraction. Binghamton’s Derek Grant finished the Bears with just over two seconds remaining in the game to give his team a 3-2 win at Giant Center. Technically, the goal went down in the book as an even-strength goal. The B-Sens out shot the Bears 12-4 in the third stanza in stride towards the comeback victory.
Hershey fans quickly raced for the exits as the Senators celebrated a late comeback win, and the inconsistent Bears exited the ice. It has been a season where great periods are followed by lousy periods, and great weekends are followed by horrific weekends. Just as you may think the Bears have taken a step forward, they seem to take a bigger leap in the opposite direction. It is a trend that started in October and has continued into March.
The fact that the Bears are struggling to maintain a .500 home ice record in front of a crowd nearing an average of 10,000 fans per game is embarrassing. The Chocolate and White now find themselves hanging on to a playoff spot for dear life with 16 games remaining in the regular season.