The Bear Cave

June 11, 2009 9:26 AM

Moose Stay Alive in AHL

Tuesday night had an opportunity to be the final evening of hockey in both the NHL and AHL, as the Detroit Red Wings and Hershey Bears each stood one victory away from locking up their respective championships. The only two issues surrounding those situations were the Pittsburgh Penguins and Manitoba Moose, who each extended the series to Friday night. The Penguins did it with a 2-1 win on home ice to force game seven, while the Moose picked up a 3-2 road victory to send the series back to Winnipeg with Hershey leading 3-2.

The first periods were all about the teams from Pennsylvania on Tuesday, as the Hershey Bears followed the model of the Pittsburgh Penguins by throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Cory Schneider in the Manitoba crease. Despite a 12-4 advantage in shots by Hershey, Schneider and the Moose were able to weather the storm, keeping the game scoreless after one period of play.

The Bears continued to press firmly onto the gas pedal during the second period, once again controlling the play. At the end of two, Hershey led in shots 24-11, but the score was not the same. With three minutes remaining in the middle frame, Manitoba broke the deadlock. Guillaume Desbiens brought the puck out from below the goal line, attempting to jam a shot through the pads of Michal Neuvirth. The Bears' netminder held his ground on Desbiens, but deflected the rebound out into the slot for Michael Grabner. Grabner knew exactly what to do in that situation, getting off a quick shot for his tenth goal of the postseason. Jason Krog picked up the second assist on the goal, while also adding to the traffic in front of the net.

One would have thought that a one-goal lead would be satisfactory for the Moose, given that Hershey had dominated the first 40 minutes of play. However, the visitors extended their lead just 67 seconds later. Jason Jaffray snapped a cross-ice pass to Cody Hodgson in the right circle. With one Manitoba player and one Hershey player skating across the front of the crease, Hodgson had a screen to work with between he and Neuvirth. Using that to his advantage, the rookie forward ripped a shot into the top part of the cage, giving Manitoba a 2-0 edge on the scoreboard.

Early in the third period, the Bears got one of the goals back. Keith Aucoin spotted Graham Mink on the right side of the crease, and sent a pass his way. Mink waited out Cory Schneider in the Manitoba goal, forcing him down and into a vulnerable position. With the upper part of the net to shoot at, Mink simply flipped a shot over the netminder and in. Alexandre Giroux dished out an assist on Mink's tally, bringing his playoff total up to 27 points after a regular season that saw him register 97.

After two disappointing periods in terms of control, the Moose played well in the third, outshooting Hershey 15-9. With less than two minutes left in regulation, Manitoba scored what appeared to be the dagger. Maxime Fortunus moved the puck up the ice to Jason Krog, who was positioned between the red line and his own blueline. Rather than dodging a possible icing call by crossing center ice, Krog opted to go for the empty net. The decision ended up working, as he split the posts for Manitoba's third goal of the evening.

As odd as it might sound, Krog's goal ended up counting as the game winner, as Hershey still had energy left in the tank. John Carlson took a pass from Staffan Kronwall in the left circle, cut toward the middle, and slid a wrist shot through Schneider's pads, cutting the deficit to 3-2 with 30.9 seconds remaining.

The Bears had a few more opportunities in the closing seconds, but Schneider and the Moose stood tall to send the series back to Canada.

Cory Schneider turned in a stellar performance for Manitoba, making 31 saves on 33 shots in the win. Michal Neuvirth suffered the loss for Hershey, despite tying Schneider with only two goals allowed. Neuvirth stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced.

The Hershey Bears and Manitoba Moose resume their best-of-seven series with game six at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Friday.

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