There is nothing more excruciatingly boring than watching a game involving the last-in-the-league Lowell Devils. So forgive the lack of detail below, since my attention frequently wandered.
The only scoring of the first 45 minutes of play came with just 57 seconds remaining in the first period when P.A. Parenteau skated the puck out from the corner across the crease, getting Devils goalie Frank Doyle to lay himself out in an effort to block the bottom half of the net. No luck, as Parenteau was able to put the puck around him and get the Pack he all-important (especially when facing the trapping Devils) first goal. The Devils outshot the Pack 9-5 but had maybe one good scoring chance to the Pack’s three. Brodie Dupont fought Ivan Khomutov in the closing minutes, but even that was fairly dull, with Khomutov getting a few early shots in before Dupont got in one of his own and both went down to the ice.
The bad news of the period was that Al Montoya appeared to suffer an injury of some sort in the process of making a kick save towards the end of the period. He stayed hunched over after play moved up ice, and skated around during the next stoppage as if testing/stretching something. He finished out the final minutes of the period, but did not return for the second period. No word yet on what the injury may be. Wiikman took his place to start the second and was immediately tested by a point-blank shot on which he came up big with his glove. There was no scoring in the second period, and the Pack’s 12-10 advantage in shots probably makes it sound more interesting than it was.
At the 5:20 mark of the third Mark Sauer made a unwise attempt to poke the puck away from the Devils Barry Tallakson as he skated through center ice and was left in a trail of dust as Tallakson rushed in on a 2-on-1 and fired a snap shot over Wiikman’s shoulder from the left circle. Sensing they might actually run the risk of giving a point or two away, the Pack began to wake up as the period went on. At the 16:55 mark Greg Moore drew an offensive zone interference penalty off of Lowell’s Ryan Murphy, setting up the eventual game winner just under a minute later when Moore whiffed on a pass from Byers, but had the puck land directly in front of Ivan Baranka as he pinched in from the left point and put a slap shot past a screened Doyle. The game looked settled at that point, but Wiikman was forced to make one more game-saving stop, as a Devil found the puck on his stick at the open side of the net with under a minute remaining, but Wiikman somehow got across to get a pad on it.
The win gave the Pack 77 points in 56 games, moving them within 4 points of division- and league-leading Providence, who they face tomorrow in Hartford with the opportunity to move to within 2 points.
With the goal, his team-leading 22nd, Parenteau picked up his 7th point in the last 4 games. His 55 points in 53 games ranks him 7th in the league in scoring. Moore and Byers picked up the assists on both goals — for Moore it was his 8th point in the past 6, and for Byers, his 9th in the last 6. Wiikman looked sharp after a less-than-spectacular showing on Sunday against Bridgeport and climbed back into 4th among all AHL goalies in GAA.
The only real negative surrounding the team is an increasing list of injuries. Captain Andrew Hutchinson missed his second game with a groin injury, and was joined on the sidelines by defenseman David Liffiton, also out with an unspecified injury. The Pack signed Charlotte’s Jared Nightingale, the ECHL’s leader in fighting majors, to a PTO contract prior to the game. He was paired with former Michigan State teammate Corey Potter, but didn’t really impress, getting beaten through the neutral zone and in battles along the boards a few times. Hugh Jessiman returned after missing one game, but the injury to Montoya has to cause some concern, regardless of how well Wiikman has been playing. Tommy Pyatt went back on the list of healthy scratches, along with Bruce Graham.
1. Parenteau (22) (Moore, Byers) 19:13
3. Baranka (5) (Moore, Byers) 17:47
Hossa – Anisimov – Bourret
Byers – Moore – Parenteau
Dupont – Korpikoski – Jessiman
Ouellette – Owens
Sauer – Pock
Baranka – Taylor
Potter – Nightingale
Montoya / Wiikman
1. Ivan Baranka
2. Barry Tallackson
3. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
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