The Manchester Monarchs entered the game with the AHL’s best power play and worst penalty kill. By the end of the night, they had improved in both categories, winning the special teams battle — and game — in Hartford by going 8 for 8 on the penalty kill and 1 for 4 on the power play.
The Pack got an early opportunity when referee Nygel Pelletier awarded Manchester’s Matt Moulson a hooking penalty only seven seconds into the game. But as it has ever since Andrew Hutchinson was knocked out of the line up by a hip injury five games ago, the Pack’s (still) 3rd ranked power play proved absolutely impotent, going 0 for 8 on the night and extending their power play shut out streak to 0 for 18 of the last 5 games. With 9 penalties called in the first period alone (including offsertting fighting majors for Josh Gratton and Paul Crosty – a close bout, with perhaps a slight edge to Gratton) neither team really seemed to get rolling in the period. The Monarchs took a 10-6 advantage in shots, but neither was able to get on the score board.
The Monarchs did get on the board early in the second, when at 2:08 a miscommunication between Pack forwards left a trailing Monarch wide open with the puck. It looked to me like Anisimov had motioned Pock, who was playing wing at the time, to cover one of the Monarch forwards while he took another and the defenseman on the play covered the puck carrier, but Pock opted to stay on the puck carrier, who was able to get the puck back to the wide-open trailer, who beat LeNeveu high from just above the hash marks.
Right off the next faceoff newly signed defenseman Brad Brown squared off with Manchester’s Kevin Westgarth, with Brown taking the win in a close battle. At 8:07, with Corey Potter (who played his worst game I’ve seen him play in person since the opening game of the season) in the box for holding, David Meckler fired a wrist shot from the top of the left circle through LeNeveu’s 5-hole. The goal looked an awful lot like some of the softies Montoya has been criticized for letting in, as LeNeveu seemed to have a clear view of the shooter and the puck didn’t appear to be deflected on its way in from where we were sitting. [Edit: According the Bruce Berlet of the Hartford Courant it was deflected, so ignore that.] LeNeveu did appear to be fighting the puck a bit throughout the night, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Wiikman get the start tomorrow.
Once again the Pack had a 4 to 3 advantage in power play opportunities in the period, including 52 seconds of 5-on-3 time, but despite taking a 13 to 7 advantage in shots, they weren’t able to get the puck past Manchester goalie Daniel Taylor until the 19:07 mark of the period, when Jordon Owens beat him with a rebound shot during a scrum in front of the net.
As if the news wasn’t bad enough, it seems like Brodie Dupont might have been injured at some point in the 2nd period because he wasn’t on the bench and didn’t play in the 3rd. My husband said he remembered Dupont taking a hard hit in the far corner of the defensive zone during the second, but I can’t say I noticed anything that might suggest why he didn’t finish the game. Neither Brown or Charlotte callup Ryan Constant saw much ice time in the 3rd period either, with Tomas Pock moving back on defense after having played the majority of the game (excluding power plays) on the wing. Both were on the bench in the 3rd, however.
The Pack did manage a few really good opportunities in the third, including multiple open-net opportunities for Parenteau that he shot wide. At 12:10 the Monarchs extended their lead to two on a goal which appeared to have been batted in by a high stick by Lauri Tukonen as he crashed into the crease, but the referee ruled it was a goal. And despite a valiant effort in the closing minutes and outshouting the Monarchs 13 to 5 in the 3rd, the Pack were not able to climb out of the hole they’d dug themselves, though late in the third it did appear that they had gotten the deficit back down to one, but it was ruled the puck was touched with a high stick before it went into the net. The Pack finished the game with a 32-22 advantage in shots, but their inability to cash in on multiple power play opportunities ultimately did them in.
2. Owens (3) (Jessiman, Gratton) 19:07
Korpikoski – Moore – Gratton
Pock – Anisimov – Parenteau
Dupont – Ouellette – Jessiman
Owens – Lee
Taylor – Baranka
Potter – Brown
Constant – Sauer
LeNeveu / Wiikman
1. David Meckler
2. Matt Moulson
3. Jordan Owens
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