Talk About Intense
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Talk About Intense
Pack Just Getting Started
May 22, 2004
By BRUCE BERLET, Courant Staff Writer
Folks in these parts don't know much about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, a team that showed up for their only Civic Center appearance missing a third of their regulars.
But don't count Wolf Pack defenseman Jamie Pushor among those wondering why a team that finished 16 points behind one that tied for first overall has been so formidable in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.
"Pittsburgh has had a good group of young prospects for a few years," said Pushor, who played 91 games with the NHL Penguins the last two seasons before signing with Columbus and then being traded to the Rangers. "I played with about half of them in Pittsburgh, and they're a pretty skilled team that's well coached. They're playing with confidence, have a lot of good experience in the NHL and AHL and their goaltender [rookie Andy Chiodo] has been very solid."
Bryce Lampman's first playoff goal 5:16 into overtime gave the Pack a 3-2 victory Thursday and a split of the first two games in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The next three games are at the Civic Center, starting tonight at 7:05.
"When you're off [12 days], your battle level isn't where it's suppose to be," said Pushor, who helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 1997. "But after 60 minutes, you come to the rink the next game really prepared to battle. We tried to shake off the rust from the first game. Our game is getting pucks behind the net and not turning them over in the middle. Our forwards are pretty good below the circles, and we did a better job.
"But they were very resilient and kept coming back. It was one of those games where you kept mucking it out, and fortunately we got the last shot. It was an awesome shot. It was nice to see a guy like Bryce score a goal like that."
The Pack twice lost one-goal leads, facing an energized team playing before a raucous crowd at the Wachovia Arena.
"[The Penguins] have a lot of things to say about what's happening," McGill said. "They're playing in their building, an emotional building, but our guys just stayed with it and played. They didn't ever think we were going to beat them 1-0 or 2-0. We've been a team all year where if something happens, we just go out the next shift and not let it bother them. It goes back to our leadership."
Goalie Jason LaBarbera, who missed the final 11:34 of Game 1 because of cramps, said he didn't expect anything else.
"Some teams might have folded, but we didn't," LaBarbera said. "They got a little momentum after they scored the second goal and the crowd was rocking, but we were able to keep our composure for the most part.
"It was probably the most intense game of the season, with the crowd adding so much to it. ... When you've got [7,313] people in white on their feet going bananas, it really adds to the emotions of the game and makes them fun to play in. Obviously there are stressful times, but it's fun, too. That's our job. That's why we've been playing hockey our whole lives."
Despite winning "a really fabulous playoff game," McGill isn't comfortable, even with the next three games - and four of a possible five - at the Civic Center.
"It's great to go home, but this series is far from over," McGill said. "It's going to be a long series, and we're not looking any farther ahead than the first period [tonight]."
Block party: The Pack will host a block party from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Trumbull Street entrance with live entertainment and refreshments.
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