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Merkulov’s Pair Powers Providence Comeback

#AHL | The @WBSPenguins started out strong Friday, but the @AHLBruins battled back to take the game in a shootout. @FPHBears tells us how it all happened in his latest.

Merkulov’s Pair Powers Providence Comeback

PROVIDENCE, RI – It was an important Atlantic Division tilt for the Providence Bruins and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday, who were both looking for points to help themselves out in the standings. The Penguins desperately need points to insert themselves back into the playoff picture and looked to be in good position to do it after opening up a 3-1 lead. However, Georgii Merkulov scored a pair of goals including the tying goal inside of the last two minutes to send the game to overtime, and then ultimately a shootout, where Mike Reilly scored in the bottom of the seventh round to take a 4-3 win. Kyle Keyser earned the victory with 30 saves while Taylor Gauthier took the loss, also with 30 stops on the night.

To Wilkes-Barre’s credit, despite their recent struggles, the Penguins didn’t look like a team that matched their position on the standings board. They outshot the Bruins in each of the first two periods and kept battling even after falling behind, with Fabian Lysell’s tenth goal of the season early in the second.

Wilkes-Barre rattled off three goals in a span of just under six minutes, starting with Tyler Sikura’s sixth of the season as he fired from inside the left circle past Keyser to even the score at one. The Penguins took the lead when Jon Lizotte scored his first goal of the season. The defender typically doesn’t light the lamp all that often but found himself in the right place at the right time Friday and buried a sharp angle shot. Valtteri Puustinen scored Wilkes-Barre’s second power play goal of the game on a blast from the left circle to extend the lead to two.

That’s when Merkulov took over, staying up at the blue line and taking a stretch pass to go in by himself and put some doubt in the minds of the visitors. It took until the final moments of the game for Merkulov to do it again as he ripped a shot from the right circle through Gauthier to even the count at three and send it to extra time.

The teams traded opportunities in the shootout, but Reilly chipped a backhand shot over Gauthier’s shoulder to give Providence the extra point.

The win lifts Providence back into first place in the Atlantic Division as their win combined with a loss for the Hershey Bears to vault the Bruins back to the top spot. The loss is tough for the Penguins, who put together a pretty solid effort with power play goals on both tries, but walking away with only one point keeps them in the last spot in the division. Two points would have brought them at least to seventh place, possibly sixth, but the good news is that they’re collecting points to remain in the race. The Penguins have the opportunity to exact their revenge on Saturday, as the Penguins and Bruins play the second half of this home-and-home set at Mohegan Sun Arena.

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