As opposed to the Bandits, the Hershey Bears knew what to do with a three-goal lead last night. As a result, the teams will meet in the fifth and deciding game of their AHL playoff series in Hershey tomorrow.
Provided with an exceptional start -- Jim Montgomery's goal at 10 seconds is the fastest playoff goal in franchise history -- Hershey was up by three goals just a couple of minutes into the second period and then hung on for a 4-2 victory that squared the series at two apiece.
"We controlled the game after the first period," said Baltimore coach Walt Kyle. "But we just didn't have enough to get over the hump." In Game 3 on Wednesday, the Bandits squandered a 5-2 advantage in little more than 20 minutes, losing, 7-5, and letting Hershey back into this hard-fought series.
Montgomery was called up to Philadelphia when the Flyers came up with injuries in their Stanley Cup playoff series with Tampa Bay and the Bears thought they had lost their 107-point scorer for the season.
A phone call by Hershey after it had lost the first two games to Baltimore changed that, however, and Montgomery arrived just in time to score two goals and add an assist in Game 3.
In addition to his lightning-quick goal last night, Montgomery delivered a pass right onto the stick of Phil Crowe at the goal mouth to give his club a 2-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game.
"He's been a leader for us all year," said Bears coach Bill Barber of Montgomery. "But we've got a room full of guys who have been doing the job all year through some pretty tough circumstances."
After the Bandits recovered from the 3-0 deficit on a pair of goals by Mike Maneluk, the second coming when they were short-handed, Hershey was required to play tough and smart defense over the last half of the game.
The Bears were up to the task and the Bandits helped out mightily by being whistled for 30 minutes in penalties, leading to seven Hershey power plays.
While the visitors hit on just one of these attempts -- the winning goal, incidentally -- it was all the time the Bandits spent killing off the penalties that hurt badly. Hershey got that all-important No. 3 goal from defenseman Todd Nelson on a power-play shot through a maze in front of the Bandits' goal.
Kyle bemoaned the time spent killing penalties. "That and the fact we had some guys who had horrible games," he said.
His hit list was long. "Oleg Mikulchick has to be an impact player if we're going to win the fifth game," Kyle said. "Jim Campbell has to show up. Slava Butsayev and Denny Lambert have to be factors."
None of them were last night, and you could add a few more names to the coach's list. On the other hand, Kyle indicated, Maneluk, Dwayne Norris and Steve King played strong games, necessitated by the fact they weren't getting a whole lot of help. Rookie Brian Goudie stood out on defense, also.
"Better performances from a lot of guys, that's the only thing that's going to get us through," said Kyle.
Trailing by a goal with about 17 minutes remaining, the Bandits rode out a double-minor penalty. They were back on a roll in the last five minutes and went at the Hershey goal impressively, only to be turned away by goalie Tim Cheveldae.
Tomorrow's showdown begins at 6 p.m. at the Hersheypark Arena.
NOTES: The Bandits' Dave Sacco, out with an injured Achilles tendon for two weeks, skated but wasn't able to go. There's a chance he'll be back to center Norris and Maneluk tomorrow in Hershey. . . With the victory at home Wednesday, Hershey avoided being swept in a playoff series for the first time since 1972. The Bears have been in 48 AHL playoffs in their 58-year history.
Pub Date: 4/27/96