In the blink of an eye, everything changed for the Worcester Sharks.
With under three minutes to play in the third period and the game tied 1-1, Sharks forward Jeremy Langlois dumped the puck into the Hershey Bears zone and pursued the puck. The result? Langlois was assessed a game misconduct and a five minute major for checking from behind at 17:17 as his contact with Bears defenseman Steve Oleksy sent Oleksy head first into the right end board.
Once play resumed, the Bears scored three power play goals, one of which was an empty net goal, in a 1:51 span for a 4-1 win and 1-0 lead in the best of five first round series.
The Sharks, who outshot the Bears 42-24, had their lone goal scored by forward Micheal Haley while goaltender Aaron Dell made 20 saves.
The opening 20-minutes saw the Sharks out shoot the Bears 14-5 and take a 1-0 lead at 19:46 when Haley buried home a rebound strike from on top of the crease for a power play goal, his first goal of the Calder Cup playoffs. Sharks forwards Barclay Goodrow and Daniil Tarasov had the assists on the goal.
Though the Sharks outshot the Bears 17-10 in the second period, it was the Bears who scored the tying goal at 18:31 when defenseman Connor Carrick beat Dell through the wickets with a snap shot from deep inside the right circle while trailing on a Bears rush attack for his first goal of the playoffs.
In the third period, Dell made several huge saves to keep the game tied 1-1, none bigger than his breakaway save on Bears forward Dustin Gazley at 12:57.
However, it didn't take the Bears long to capitalize on Langlois' major penalty as defenseman Nate Schmidt held the puck in at the right point when Sharks forward Travis Oleksuk attempted to clear the puck, skated down towards the left slot and fired a snap shot that broke off Dell at 17:39 for what held up as the game-winning-goal.
Bears forward Stanislav Galiev snuck the puck past Dell at 19:03 off a mad scramble in front after Dell had stopped Galiev on the initial shot for a 3-1 lead and forward Chris Brown sealed a Bears win with an empty net goal at 19:30.
NOTES... Shots on goal were 42-24 in favor of the Sharks... The Sharks went 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-5 on the penalty kill... This was the first Sharks playoff game at the DCU Center since May 7, 2010... 12 Sharks players made their professional playoff debut... Langlois returned to the Sharks lineup after missing the last 32 games due to a broken foot and his 15 penalty minutes in third period doubled his total from the regular season... Goodrow had a game high six shots on goal... The crowd of 3,026 was the largest in Sharks playoff history, surpassing the previous high of 3,019 set on May 9, 2009, which was a 1-0 Sharks win over the Providence Bruins (via Bill Ballou)... The Sharks will look to even the series Saturday night when the host the Bears at 7 p.m./et.
1. Nate Schmidt - Bears (1-0-1, GWG)
2. Pheonix Copoley - Bears (41 saves, Win)
3. Aaron Dell - Sharks (20 saves)
Tarasov / Tierney / Goodrow
Goldobin / Trupp / Lerg (C)
Haley (A) / Carpenter / Hayes
Schwartz / Oleksuk / Langlois
Taormina (A) / Tennyson
Stollery / DeMelo
Young / Fedun