HERSHEY, Pa. – Jeff Taffe scored two goals and added two assists, and Philipp Grubauer stopped all 20 shots he faced in a relief appearance, to help the HERSHEY BEARS defeat the AHL-leading Syracuse Crunch 5-3 on Sunday evening at GIANT Center for the team’s third consecutive win.
The top scoring line of the BEARS connected for the game’s first goal. Barry Almeida sent a pass down the right boards for Taffe, who carried behind the Syracuse net. Taffe quickly centered the puck and Jon DiSalvatore ripped it beyond the reach of netminder Cedrick Desjardins at 6:53. It was DiSalvatore’s 15th goal of the season and Taffe’s 35th assist.
Former BEARS center Kyle Wilson evened the score just under two minutes later. Carrying the puck down the left wing, Jean-Francois Jacques sent a shot on goal that Sabourin padded away, but Wilson pounced on the rebound and slid it home at 8:47.
With time winding down in the period, a BEARS turnover at the defensive blue line saw the puck end up on the stick of Mark Barberio. His pass to the left circle found Tyler Johnson, who sent a blast over Sabourin’s glove at 19:25 for his league-leading 29th goal of the season.
Syracuse expanded their lead to 3-1 just 1:43 into the second period, when a left-point slap shot by Evan Oberg sailed inside the right post behind a screened Sabourin. Grubauer came on in relief after the goal.
The BEARS then grabbed the momentum and ran. Taffe’s first goal came at 10:42, a one-time shot off of a cross-ice pass from Steve Oleksy. At 16:33, Mike Carman’s pass just missed being tipped out of trouble by a Syracuse defenseman. But it found its way to Taffe, who took an off-balance wrist shot that sailed over the arm of Desjardins. The goal was Taffe’s 15th of the season, tying him with DiSalvatore for the team lead.
The BEARS grabbed their first lead since early in the game on a line rush led by Taffe in the third period. He spotted Cameron Schilling with a drop pass, and Schilling attempted a shot on goal but partially fanned on the chance. The puck slid through a maze of bodies and underneath Desjardins at 11:16. Taffe earned his league-leading 36th assist on the play.
A big insurance goal came at 14:47 when Syracuse defenseman Dmitry Korobov lost his balance along the right boards, allowing Casey Wellman to take off on a breakaway from the neutral zone. He deked to the backhand and tucked a shot underneath Desjardins to round out the scoring.
Grubauer earned the win in 38:17 of relief work to improve to 8-4-1. Desjardins stopped 14 of 19 shots and his record dropped to 11-15-2.
The BEARS ended the night 0-for-3 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.
The BEARS won their third straight home game for the first time this season, and move into third place in the East Division and sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 28-21-3-5.
The HERSHEY BEARS hit the road for a pair of games against the Norfolk Admirals next weekend. The teams face off at Norfolk Scope on Friday, March 8 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, March 9 at 7:15 PM. The team returns home on Sunday, March 10 for a 5:00 PM faceoff against the Binghamton Senators. Individual tickets are available at the GIANT Center box office, by calling (717) 508-BEAR or online at TicketMaster.com.
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