The Providence Bruins could have given their resident sympathetic figure, goaltender Anton Khudobin, a bit of a welcome respite Friday night. Entering the depths of the third period, the AHL’s cumulative saves leader appeared to be on pace for his lightest workload of the season.
That prospect ultimately blew apart, however, due to a late gale of penalties. But even before that, the P-Bruins had spotted themselves a losing battle as they authorized a 2-0 deficit within the first 40 minutes, despite pelting Connecticut Whale stopper Chad Johnson with 11 shots in each of the first two periods.
By night’s end, Khudobin had repelled 22 out of 26 shots faced, including 10 of 12 in a third period that more closely resembled a typical 2011-12 P-Bruins’ excursion. The scoreboard was likewise a wretched rerun as the Whale claimed a 4-1 victory before 7,352 fans at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
The first two-thirds of the opening frame constituted a stiff arm-wrestling match, the jutting difference being an icebreaker via Connecticut winger Scott Tanski with 6:13 gone.
Starting at 14:04, the P-Bruins drew three unanswered minors on the Whale and went on a 5-1 run in the shooting gallery to hustle into intermission. But Johnson held his own to maintain his club’s 1-0 advantage.
By the conclusion of the second stanza, Johnson and Co. had dealt with five consecutive penalty kills. Yet on a fleeting, even-strength counterattack, Connecticut’s Tommy Grant beat Providence stopper Anton Khudobin on his first test of the period, roofing home the game’s second goal for a 2-0 edge.
When the calls began to even out in the third, the P-Bruins paid in the form of two 5-on-3 disadvantages and a pair of Whale conversions that came with them.
Zach Hamill did hatch Johnson’s goose-egg by burying a Jordan Caron rebound for a shorthanded strike at 6:13. But that was sandwiched by Kris Newbury redirecting Mats Zuccarello’s power-play bid home 50 seconds prior for a 3-0 lead and Zuccarello inserting his own shot at 15:46 to finalize the 4-1 upshot.
The long-standing line of Josh Hennessy, Max Sauve and Jamie Tardif keyed the bulk of the first period attack. Not only did they combine for six of the P-Bruins’ first 11 shots, but they were also pressing within intimate distance of Johnson during a late power play when Stu Bickel was cited for cross-checking, amounting to a brief 5-on-3 and a carry-over man-advantage.
Prior to that, Tardif had drawn a tripping penalty on Grant behind the Whale cage. Tardif later drew an interference minor on defenseman Pavel Valentenko as he literally crashed the net in the ninth minute of the middle frame.
Meanwhile, Hennessy repeatedly thwarted Connecticut counterattacks by picking off forward passes in the neutral zone and thrusting the disc back onto Whale property.
Even with the reinsertion of long-wounded captain Trent Whitfield and Caron, on his second one-game lone from Boston this season, along with the aforementioned efforts of Hennessy’s line, the power play continued to perform like the No. 29 unit in the league. And in special teams and even-strength onslaughts alike, too many passes were off key, too many races lost and too many loose pucks cleared by the Whale.
By night’s end, the P-Bruins were 0-for-7 with the extra body. Perhaps symbolically, their final 10 seconds of their last opportunity were spilled when Andrew Bodnarchuk went off for tripping with 5:09 to spare. He was joined by Jamie Arniel (high-sticking) 20 seconds later and they subsequently watched from their confined space as Zuccarello tallied Connecticut’s second 5-on-3 goal of the night.
Tanski’s goal was his first of the season, although it was originally credited to blueliner Jared Nightingale. Nightingale has not tuned the mesh in his last 38 AHL regular-season games, dating back to when he beat the P-Bruins’ Michael Hutchinson in the Feb. 19 Whale Bowl game at Rentschler Field.
Winger Jared Owens was credited with an assist on each of Connecticut’s first two goals.
Zuccarello led all participants with five shots on net and was joined by Nightingale and Owens in the night’s two-point club.
To make room for the additions of Caron and Whitfield, two P-Bruins forwards were deleted from the roster Friday, one exit presumed temporary, and the other a little closer to permanent. Rookie Kyle MacKinnon was reassigned to ECHL Reading for the first time while Adam Presizniuk was released from his professional tryout after nine days and two appearances in game action.
P-Bruins rookie defenseman Kevan Miller, putting in his first appearance in exactly two weeks after nursing an injury, dropped the gloves with Connecticut forward Andre Deveaux at the 51-second mark of the third period.
Caron and defenseman Matt Bartkowski were the only Providence skaters to finish with a positive rating. Despite putting in only two AHL appearances, Caron now leads the Baby Bs with a plus-2 rating on the year.
Bodnarchuk garnered the secondary assist on Hamill’s goal.
Identical twin brothers Zach McKelvie of Providence and Chris McKelvie of Connecticut have each suited up once in the season series, but have not played against each other yet.