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While most people expected the Penguins-Islanders game to be a bloodbath, the Penguins-Bears game tonight got very close to being just that. Both teams had already wrapped up their playoff position heading into tonight's game and things got physical early and often with a lot of after the whistle scrums.
The game might not have meant much but there were a few injuries on both sides. Geoff Walker received a heavy slash that went uncalled and didn't return. He also didn't come back on the ice at the end of the game for the "jersey off the backs" promotion. Hershey's Mathieu Perrault fell awkwardly behind the net after a Joey Mormina check and had to be helped off the ice with an apparent knee injury.
Keven Veilleux received a match penalty for slashing Steve Pinizzotto. Pinizzottto saw it was Veillux coming at him and tumbled to the ice and looked like he was in intense pain. Miraculously he was able to return for his next shift. Hopefully Veilleux doesn't receive any extra punishment for pouncing on Pinizzotto.
Hershey got on the board first 11:18 into the game. Andrew Kozek stole a puck from Andrew Hutchinson as he was starting a breakout and fired a quick shot past Brad Thiessen. Kozek also scored the Bears' second goal after making a nice move.
The Penguins didn't give up though. Bryan Lerg's point shot was blocked but Brett Sterling found the loose puck and buried a shot past Braden Holtby to draw within a goal.
To put it bluntly the officiating was not very good. Referee Andy Thiessen (no relation to Brad) handed out matching penalties more times than not and one of those terrible calls caused a possible game-tying goal to be waved off. Brett Sterling was in the crease and seemed to bump Holtby. Holtby retaliated by throwing his blocker into Sterling's face and as he was doing that Bryan Lerg scored. Ref Thiessen waved off the goal and gave Sterling a goalie interference minor and Holtby a roughing minor.
Holtby seemed to be getting frustrated as he took several minor penalties and left his crease to tackle Veilleux when he was beating on Pinizzotto in the third period.
The Penguins had a chance to tie it again when they were handed a power play with 3:50 left but were unable to score. With 2:01 left Holtby attacked Ryan Craig after the whistle and Craig retaliated. Craig was given the only penalty and the game seemed all but over.
Bryan Lerg had a breakaway chance shorthanded but was robbed by Holtby and that sealed the deal for the Bears, 2-1.
The teams face off again tomorrow night in Hershey. I'll have the preview up tomorrow afternoon and the game thread will be up at 6:30 p.m. EST.