The Wolf Pack put an end to their 3 game losing streak tonight, earning a hard-fought victory over their former goaltender Al Montoya, gaining two points they owe in large part to their two newest teammates, goaltender David LeNeveu, who stopped 31 of 32 San Antonio shots, and forward Josh Gratton, who scored the game winner against his old teammates just past the half way point of the third period.
The Pack started tentatively, but found their legs by the mid point of the first period, balancing out a 5-1 San Antonio shot advantage by the end of the period. Once again they were playing without captain Andrew Hutchinson, but they were also forced to play the game a skater short, since Alex Bourret suffered a concussion in Friday night’s game and they had no spare players with them on the trip. The first period ended in a scoreless tie, with the two sides matching up even in shots at 11. Montoya looked somewhat jittery to start, but settled in to play a fairly solid game.
The Pack got on the board first, at 10:32 of the second, when Artem Anisimov won an offensive zone faceoff and got the puck over to Brodie Dupont, who fired it past Montoya high on the stick side from the high slot. The goal ended a nine and a half period (192.29 minute) scoreless streak for the Pack. The Rampage poured on the pressure late in the period, forcing LeNeveu to come up big on two tough saves in the closing minutes. And once again the teams finished even in shots, this time at 10 apiece.
Newcomer Josh Gratton, who’d taken the only penalty in the game through two periods earlier in the second, drew the Pack’s only power play opportunity five minutes into the third period when he picked up a San Antonio turnover in the right circle in the offensive zone and was tripped up as he tried to skate out in front of the net. The Pack were unable to convert, and just as the power play expired, the Rampage got on the board when defenseman Ryan Caldwell fed an uncovered Cam Paddock from the right circle for the easy tip in from just below the hash marks. But Gratton got it back at 13:12 when he shoveled home a centering pass from Greg Moore, who’d made a beautiful rush down the ice on his off wing side before cutting in on net and backhanding a pass out to Gratton. It was Gratton’s first goal and point for the Wolf Pack and earned him First Star of the night honors against his old team.
Thing would a little hairy for the Pack when referee Jeff Smith, who’d let every manner of infraction go over the Pack’s previous 5 periods, 17 minutes and 26 seconds, called Dane Byers for an accidental high stick when a San Antonio player skated into Byers’ upraised stick after he’d played the puck along the boards. There was no injury on the play, and given the calls that had been overlooked over the previous 5 periods, this call stunk of a referee trying to influence the outcome of the game. Alas, the Pack penalty kill held on, even after the Rampage pulled Montoya for the extra skater, and LeNeveu came up big when he needed to, allowing the Pack to escape with the regulation win and picking up Second Star honors. For LeNeveu, it was only his first win in 3 tries for the Wolf Pack, despite having an impressive 1.34 GAA and .948 save percentage in those three games. On the other side, it was Montoya’s first loss in three games for the Rampage, in which he’s earned a 1.63 GAA and matching .948 save percentage.
The two teams meet again on Friday in Hartford.
2. Dupont (9) (Anisimov) 10:32
3. Gratton (6) (Moore, Pock) 13:12
Byers – Ouellette – Jessiman
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Owens – Moore – Korpikoski
Baranka – Taylor
Constant – Potter
Pock – Sauer
LeNeveu / Wiikman
1. Josh Gratton
2. David LeNeveu
3. Cam Paddock
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