As has happened a few times this season, the Pack followed up a decisive, dominant victory with a flat game in which they allowed themselves to be pushed around physically, displayed little drive or second effort, and played a primarily perimeter game with few quality scoring chances to show for their 38 shots on goal.
The Monarchs came out fast and physical, and intimidated the Pack from the get-go, getting on the scoreboard 4:39 into the game when they got the Pack defenseman running around in their own zone. Patrik Hersley fed the puck out to former Ranger property Marc-Andre Cliche from behind the net, and Cliche dished it off to a poorly-covered Brady Murrey in the high slot, who had plenty of time to pick his spot. Goalie David LeNeveu, making his debut for the Wolf Pack, was left out to dry on the play and had no chance on the shot.
The Pack seemingly got on the board around the halfway mark of the period when a point shot from Andrew Hutchinson found the back of the net, but it was determined that the puck was deflected with a high stick on its way in, and the goal was waived off. Around the 15 minute mark, with the Pack on the power play, Alex Bourret, who’d left yesterday’s game early with an unspecified injury, took a hit into the boards right in front of our section. He was grimacing visibly as he got up. On his next shift became an unwilling participant in a fight with 6′7″, 250lb Monarch forward Brian Boyle. The two traded shoves in the corner to start, and Bourret seemed reluctant to drop the gloves, but was left with little option. He held on reasonably well, getting a few shots in and protecting himself fairly well while doing his best to take Boyle down and put an end to the fight. As there were less than 2 minutes to go in the period, the two players left for the dressing room, but Bourret did not return the rest of the night.
With Manchester tough guy Paul Crosty sent to the box for slashing at 17:48, the Pack would get on the board with 1:57 to go in the period, when Dane Byers put home the rebound of a Hutchinson point shot. On the next shift Crosty would square off with the Pack’s Josh Gratton. Both players would throw some serious haymakers, with a few connecting on each side before Gratton would get the upper hand and buckle Crosty’s knees with a hard right. The Pack finished the period with an 11-9 advantage in shots, but few true scoring chances as most shots came from the outside or were fired into the goalie Jonathan Quick’s chest.
The 2nd period offered pretty much more of the same, with the Pack getting the only two power plays of the frame. But over passing and perimeter play made Quick’s night relatively easy despite the high shot total. Final shots on the period were 9-7 in the Pack’s favor.
The Pack gave the Monarchs an early 5-on-3 to start the 3rd, when Byers took a tripping penalty at :25 and Hutchinson was assessed a cross-checking penalty 1:20 later. The Pack killed it off with relative ease. However, the Monarchs would get the go-ahead goal not long after, at 6:27 of the 3rd, when a high rebound popped up into the air and was knocked into the net off the upper body of Matt Moulson as he was being pushed into the net by Jake Taylor. LeNeveu, Parenteau and Moore would all protest that Moulson knocked the puck in with his hands, arms, or high stick, but none of them got very far with referee Nygel Pelletier, who let a number of cheap shots go on both sides all night long.
The Pack had a few shifts in the 3rd where they applied pressure briefly, including their best chance of tying it up late in the period when Jessiman, Anisimov and Korpikoski would take part in a protracted battle in the Manchester crease, only to see the puck squeak inches wide of the right post. But for the most part the Pack seemed to have given up on this one early, showing no urgency and making frequent mental errors throughout.
Newcomer LeNeveu deserved a better fate tonight. On first impression, he’s a solid goaltender who tracks the puck well, is sound positionally, and who absolutely swallowed rebounds all night. He also handles the puck outside the crease far better than either Montoya, Wiikman, or Holt. His 30 saves earned him 2nd star honors, but I’d say he actually had a harder night than his counterpart in the Manchester net, who earned the 1st star. He was on the receiving end of a lot of punishment all night, getting the benefit of only one penalty call in his favor, early in the game. In the 3rd, he took both an elbow to the head, and a blatant stick in the mask after freezing the puck. His new teammates’ response was perhaps a little disappointing, as neither shot resulted in more than some harsh words and some pushing and shoving.
1. Byers (19) (Hutchinson, Pock) 18:03 (PP)
Byers – Moore – Parenteau
Jessiman – Anisimov – Bourret
Dupont – Ouellette – Korpikoski
Owens – Gratton
Hutchinson – Potter
Baranka – Taylor
Pock – Sauer
LeNeveu / Wiikman
1. Jonathan Quick
2. David LeNeveu
3. Dane Byers
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