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P-Bruins deliver knockout blow to Canadiens
|Their 6-1 victory eliminates
Fredericton and sends Providence to the Calder Cup finals.
PROVIDENCE -- After three so-so games in Fredericton in which Providence lost the last two, the Providence Bruins left little doubt last night which was the better team in this AHL Eastern Conference championship series as they swarmed all over the Canadiens from the opening whistle and went on to an impressive 6-1 win that sent the Habs packing.
The victory sends the P-Bruins to Calder Cup finals for the first time in franchise history.
Adding to the delight for 7,106 fans at the Civic Center was the fact that the P-Bruins shooters exacted some revenge against Canadiens' goaltender Jose Theodore who had limited them to only one goal in two games in Fredericton, shutting them out in Game 5 when he stopped 49 shots.
Last night, Theodore didn't have a chance to make one save before he was down by a goal when Peter Ferraro scored 12 seconds off the opening faceoff. From then on it was all down hill for Theodore, who trailed by three after a goal by Antti Laaksonen and another by Ferraro. Then, after Landon Wilson made it 4-0, Fredericton coach Michel Therrien felt compassion for Theodore and took him out of the game.
``That wasn't the start that we wanted,'' lamented Therrien. ``They came out very strong. They are a fantastic team. They play with such confidence in this arena, and I think we're intimidated playing here. Tonight, we were playing against a great machine.''
So why was Providence so successful against Theodore at the Civic Center, where they beat him three times in this series?
``I think our rink favors us more so than the one in Fredericton,'' said Providence coach Peter Laviolette. ``Everything bottles up quickly up there in their smaller arena. Our forwards don't have a chance to get loose and free like they can here. Our place is a little bigger and gives us more room to maneuver. I never played for a championship and I played 11 years, so this feels real good.''
Providence awaits the winner of the Western Conference finals between Philadelphia and Rochester. That series is all even at 2-2. Game 5 will be played in Rochester tonight. In any case, the Calder Cup finals begin here next Saturday night. Game 2 is Sunday night. Tickets went on sale for those games immediately after last night's game.
Tickets can be purchased for the first two games today and tomorrow by phone only (273-5000). The box office will reopen Tuesday morning at 10 o'clock.
``So far we hadn't clinched anything at home in front of our fans so that was nice that they could see us win and move on to the finals,'' Laviolette said. ``We would have liked to have won it in four, but Fredericton played extremely hard and it took six games to get it done.''
While Theodore was seeing entirely too much rubber, at the other end, Providence goalie John Grahame was enjoying a relatively quiet night, needing to make only 16 saves.
``This is a team game and it was a great team effort. If you want individual credit all the time, go play tennis,'' Grahame said. ``I don't care if I have four saves or 400, it doesn't matter as long as we win.''
Ferraro's first goal at the 12-second mark set the tone early, Laviolette said.
``That goal let everyone on our team know that we were back home, we're where we belong and we dominated here all year long and we're not going to be stopped. That was the mentality in the locker room before the game and Ferraro's goal set everything in motion.''
After Ferraro's quick strike, Laaksonen made it 2-0 at 5:56 when he lifted a drive low in the left circle over Theodore into the far corner.
Ferraro's power-play goal at 12:38, which made it 3-0, broke the Canadiens' back. Jason McBain started that scoring play when he delivered a pass to Eric Nickulas behind the Canadiens' net. Nickulas then whipped a sharp pass to Ferraro in front and he one-timed it past Theodore.
``I knew we were going to have a big night because everyone was ready and getting that first goal early was huge,'' Ferraro said.
After Wilson backhanded a high shot past Theodore, it was all over but the shouting and Thedore was gone from the game. Mathieu Garon replaced him and he gave up goals to Randy Robitaille at 12:28 of the second perod. Steve King, in the lineup for the first time this series, closed out the Providence scoring when he beat Garon with an unassisted goal at 10:55 of the final period.
© 1999 The Providence Journal Company