rask_save_hersheyAnd so we close the book on the Providence Bruins’ 2008-09 season. Despite the disappointing end, it was a productive year for the P-Bruins, who won the Atlantic Division playoff title and reached the Eastern Conference finals. If AHL success is judged on development and aid to the parent club, then Providence gets an A for providing Boston with the likes of Sobotka, St. Pierre, Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz throughout the season. The next time we’ll see some of these guys will be development camp in early July.

And the empty-net goal to stick a fork in Providence by Quinton Laing.

If I had to pick one Providence player in the lineup tonight (so discounting Sobotka) to make a push for a Boston roster spot in the fall, I’d go with Penner. If he gets stronger this summer I could see him challenging for a third-pair spot.

A decent amount of pressure by the P-Bruins on the power play but nothing past Neuvirth. So we could be watching the last five minutes of the Providence season.

Now that they’re pressing the P-Bruins have finally started shooting. It might be too little too late, but now they’re on the power play.

Who needs Aucoin? The man who took his lineup spot Darren Reid goes to the net and buries one past Rask. That just might be all she wrote for the P-Bruins.

Schaefer with some fancy puck work but his shot from in front goes wide.

If this is Rask’s swan song in the AHL, he has accounted for himself well — especially in a do-or-die game during which his teammates got a late wake-up call.

St. Pierre misses that pass back at the Hershey blue line and Bourque takes advantage by skating end to end and rocketing one from the left circle past Rask for a shorthanded goal. Yes, Ray Bourque’s son has put the P-Bruins just 13 minutes from elimination. Hershey 3, Providence 2.

This is Lehtonen’s period, as he draws a holding the stick penalty on Dean Arsene on the rush.

A great indirect pass from Boychuk frees Marchand behind the Hershey defense, but the winger holds the puck too long and nothing substantial develops.

No one picked up Lehtonen coming off the wall and he makes the Bears pay with a snap shot past Neuvirth’s glove side and into the top corner to tie the game. Providence 2, Hershey 2.

Just one shot on net during the rest of the Providence power play.

Third period

Second intermission observation: Well, here it is — put up or shut up time for the Providence Bruins. This is where we find out if they really want to take that bus ride to Hershey. The No. 1 goal for the P-Bruins: put some darn pucks on Neuvirth and see if they can get some bounces.

A wild spinning shot by Boychuk hits the outside of the pipe for Providence’s best bid before the end of the period. Providence will have 1:09 of more power play when the third period opens. At the end of two period, Hershey 2, Providence 1.

Here’s a chance for Providence to get even, as Perreault gets called for hooking after a P-Bruins rush.

The P-Bruins are being way too cute with the puck in the Hershey end. It’s not like Neuvirth has been impenetrable in this series.

So much for home-ice advantage a shoot-in comes off the end boards awkwardly with Rask out of the crease to play it, and Giroux just taps it into the empty net. That’ll make a loss extra painful if that’s the deciding goal. Hershey 2, Providence 1.

McQuaid has looked a step slow all day and now he gets caught hooking Mink. So here’s a Hershey power play.

St. Pierre and Schaefer nearly connected on a go-ahead goal. Schaefer throws a hit on the forecheck after the busted play. It looks like Schaefer wants to at least finish up his time in the Bruins organization with a bang or two.

It almost looked like Rask made that pass right onto Bourque’s stick so he could come back in front of the net and make a dazzling save.

Carlson with a pair of open shots from the right-wing circle that Rask gets with post-to-post saves. Suddenly the P-Bruins can’t get out of their own end clean again.

A solid momentum-building power play by Providence leads to a Hershey icing and then a timeout by the Bears to catch their breath.

Marchand just got leveled in pursuit of a rebound in front. That guy never relents.

Boychuk is back and on the first power-play unit for Providence.

Another gaffe by Hershey, as Perreault gets called for interference after a draw in the Bears’ zone. Providence with another power-play opportunity.

There’s a game-changing save by Rask, who makes sure that Gordon doesn’t put the Bears back in front with a dive to his right to seal off the pipe.

They’re alive! Schaefer comes out from behind the Hershey net and feeds to a streaking Brad Marchand, who buries the one-timer to even the score. Providence 1, Hershey 1.

4:20: Johnny Boychuk
needs help getting up after a hit in the neutral zone. He was obviously dazed and now he heads to the dressing room. So the P-Bruins march on without their No. 1 power-play weapon.

Reich makes up for his penalty after Providence finishes the kill by drawing a holding-the-stick penalty on Oskar Osala. Let’s see if Providence can show some life. The Bears hold a 16-3 shots edge.

The inevitable finally happens, as Gordon slams home a loose puck from right in front off a deflected pass. Hershey 1, Providence 0 — and still more than a minute of power-play time left for the Bears.

Now Reich goes for hooking. This could be the season.

Providence opened the period with its first real scoring chance of the game, but then the Bears cleared and Penner couldn’t win the race to draw icing. On the ensuing set-up, Martin St. Pierre gets called for interference.

Second period

First intermission stats update: Two of Providence’s three shots on net came from defensemen (Penner and Adam McQuaid).

First intermission observation:
Something tells me either Providence coach Rob Murray is tearing his club a new one or he’s not saying anything and he’s just letting the silence speak for itself.

After one period, the Providence Zombies are tied with Hershey, 0-0.

It’s pretty obvious Rabbit is far from 100 percent healthy. He was injured in Game 1 and didn’t return until last night’s Game 4. Reich doesn’t look like himself either.

It’s a minor miracle this game is still scoreless, as the shots on net right are are 10-2 Hershey.

Rask was the best penalty-killer during that power play, as he made a couple key saves — including a stop on a Giroux tip.

And now Rabbit heads to the box again, this time for slashing Perreault on a break-in. You’d almost rather see Hershey score first considering the way the P-Bruins played with the lead the last two times out.

Rask might have to do everything today. After Giroux gets behind the defense, the P-Bruins netminder comes out and poke checks the puck. Then Jeff Penner blocks Wilson’s shot at the open net. There was a lot of contact but no call against Rask, who looks like he — for one — doesn’t want this season to end.

I don’t know what they’re going to announce for attendance here, but I’d be surprise if there were 4,000 people here today. And so far the P-Bruins have done little to make anyone regret not coming.

5:00: Andrew Bodnarchuk’s
slap shot from the left point tests Neuvirth for the first Providence shot on goal. Hershey had six shots prior to that.

Just two or three shots from the perimeter on that Bears power play.

After what seemed like an eternity of attack time by Hershey, Rabbit is called for hooking.

With Aucoin out, the Bears have shifted Giroux to a line with Kyle Wilson and Andrew Gordon, while Graham Mink is skating with Chris Bourque and Mathieu Perreault.

First period

From here I’ll go with time elapsed in the game.

Linesman Chris Libett just came out with his skate guards on and took a couple spills before he got them off. Maybe that’s a trick Providence could play on Hershey star Claude Giroux.

3:57 p.m.:
If the Chicago Blackhawks taught us anything yesterday, it’s that homestanding team that trails a series can’t take things lightly just because one or more of the opponents’ top players is out. Nonetheless, Aucoin’s absence will make life a little easier for the P-Bruins.

3:40 p.m.:
Hershey will be without star center Keith Aucoin due to a hip flexor tonight. The league’s second-leading scorer in the regular season, Aucoin leads all players in this series in assists (4).

3:36 p.m.:
Here is how the the P-Bruins skated line drills in warm-ups:

Schaefer-St. Pierre-Marchand


So Kirk MacDonald gets dropped to the fourth line and Mikko Lehtonen joins Wacey Rabbit’s line, which will probably be used in a lot of checking situations.

3:27 p.m:
Starting goaltender Tuukka Rask leads the P-Bruins onto the ice for warm-ups, as does Michal Neuvirth for the Bears. Sobotka is not on the ice.

3:23 p.m.:
Every game in this series has been decided by two goals or less, but Hershey has outscored the P-Bruins, 10-3, at even strength. That should tell you something about why this series is 3-1 Bears.

3:09 p.m.:
We’re about 25 minutes from warm-ups and the news isn’t too good on forward Vladimir Sobotka, who was injured in the second period of last night’s Game 4. Sobotka is considered doubtful and a game-time decisin. Without the left winger, expect Peter Schaefer to again move up to the P-Bruins’ top line.

3:02 p.m.:
Here are some fun Providence numbers dealing with elimination games. The P-Bruins are 19-13 all-time when facing extinction. Providence is 0-5 in series it has trailed 3-1, but is 3-2 in the fifth game of those series.

This is the moment of truth for the Providence Bruins. They’ve squandered leads in two straight games and now find themselves on the brink of elimination against the Hershey Bears heading into today’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Can the P-Bruins prevail and force this series back to Hershey for Game 6 or will their season end one round shy of the Calder Cup finals? We’ll find out today at 4:05 p.m., and I’ll be live blogging all the action.