The Pack were able to grind out yet another win this afternoon, their third in three days and fifth in a row. The Pack got off to a quick start over the more-rested Pirates when Lauri Korpikoski scored on a beautiful end-to-end rush a little under six minutes into the game. He turned on the jets from around his own blue line, blew by a couple Pirate players and cut in from the right side and put the puck past Pirate goalie Mike McKenna on the backhand. That’s two gorgeous goals by Korpikoski in two games. (Maybe he read by first quarter grades? ) Tommy Pyatt, in his second game back from a sprained ankle, built the Pack’s lead to two at the twelve minute mark on another nice backhander from in close. That was the end for McKenna who was pulled in favor of Gerald Coleman. The Pack would go down two men for 1:12 in the closing minutes of the period, but were able to kill it off and escape with a 2-0 lead despite being outshot 11-9 in the period. Wiikman once again looked good, particularly during the 5-on-3 penalty kill, where he made a number of tough saves.
The Pirates applied good pressure to start the 2nd, and were able to draw within one off a deflection by Mike Hoffman of a hard point shot by Bruno St. Jacques that squeaked between Wiikman’s pads. But Baranka put the Pack back up by two about five and a half minute later on a wraparound, seconds after missing a pass down low on another great opportunity. Baranka would end the night with a goal and an assist, and a +2 in yet another good performance. The Pack closed out the 2nd period still up by 2, despite being outshot 12-6.
Just under four minutes into the third Andrew Hutchinson got caught going the wrong way and took a tripping penalty after chopping down the rushing Portland forward who got by him. On the ensuing power play, the Pirates scored on another point shot through traffic. The Pirates dominated play for the first half of the third and it looked like the Pack’s schedule was catching up to them. But when the Pirates tied it up at 10:26 on a nice 3-on-2 the Pack seemed to wake up and they started playing more aggressively. It paid off with 3:25 left to go in the game when a shot from the high slot by Mike Oullette hit Dane Byers in the thigh and dropped to the ice, where he was able to jump on it and put it home for the 4-3 lead. Parenteau iced the win with 29 seconds left after a nice shot block in the defensive zone by Byers that Korpikoski was able to feather lightly into the Portland zone, where Parenteau was able to pick the pocket of the Pirate defenseman that went back to pick it up. Parenteau had all the time in the world to put it into the empty Portland net. His goal and assist moved Parenteau into the Pack scoring lead, passing Greg Moore by 2 points.
With the win, Wiikman improved his AHL record to 6-0. That puts him ahead of both Holt and Montoya in wins on the season. His .904 save % also tops both Holt and Montoya, though his 2.70 goals against average falls short of both.
One of the impressive things about the win is that it was done without the contribution of the first line, who were held off the scoreboard. In this game, the real story was the third line combo of Korpikoski (1 goal, 1 assist) and Byers (1 goal), supplemented by spare forwards Mike Oullette (2 assists) and Tom Pyatt (1 goal). Pyatt and Oullette were rewarded for the strong play with extra ice time — at the expense of Anisimov and Jessiman, who, unless I missed them, both were glued to the bench though the final half of the 3rd (unless they were injured and I missed it.)
1. Korpikoski (5) (Baranka)
1. Pyatt (3) (Oullette)
2. Baranka (3) (Hutchinson, Parenteau)
3. Byers (5) (Oullette, Korpikoski)
3. Parenteau (11) (EN)
Dawes – Moore – Bourret
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Byers – Korpikoski – Jessiman
Pyatt – Oullette
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