Andrew Hutchinson returned to the line up and reinvigorated the Pack power play and Miika Wiikman returned to the net and stopped 39 of 40 shots to give the Pack a 4-1 win in Worcester tonight. The win moved them back into a tie in points for second in the Atlantic Division and 3rd overall in the AHL with the Portland Pirates, who lost to Philadelphia. The Pack still hold two games in hand over Portland.
The Pack got on the board early, on their second shift of the game, when Jordon Owens took a rebound off the boards behind the net and put it past Sharks netminder Thomas Greiss for his first of two goals on the night. The original shot appeared to have come from Andrew Hutchinson, but the scoring was changed later in the game to remove Hutchinson’s assist and give it to Thomas Pock. (That could change again later this week when the scoring is reviewed.) The Pack were the better of the two teams through the period, and extended their lead to two on the power at 16:15 when Artem Anisimov, covering the right point on the power play for a pinching Ivan Baranka, fired a hard, low slap shot which Mike Ouellette was able to deflect past Greiss. The Pack finished the period looking like they were well on their way to an easy win, despite having only a one shot advantage over the Sharks (11-10).
Unfortunately, the Pack came out of the locker room to start the second period convinced they already had won the game. The Sharks were quick to remind them they still had two more periods to play. They out worked the Pack throughout the period, winning all the battles and races for the puck and drawing four consecutive power plays through the first 12:10 of the game with their hard work. That included a 31 second two man advantage after Thomas Pock took a tripping penalty a minute and twenty nine seconds into an Anisimov hooking penalty. Fortunately, the Pack penalty kill, featuring P.A. Parenteau on a regular shift for what I believe was the first game this season, was perfect on the night, killing 5 of 5 Worcester opportunities. By the time they finished killing off Pock’s penalty at the 9:30 mark of the period, they were being out shot by a margin of 11 to 1, and had forced Wiikman to come up with a number of spectacular saves. It took a flukey deflection to finally beat him just before the twelve minute mark of the period when Marc Busenburg fired a shot from the low half boards that bounced off Sharks forward Brad Staubitz’s leg and past Wiikman on the glove side. The Pack held on to the 2-1 lead through the remainder of the period, with Wiikman stopping 17 of 18 Worcester shots in the period while the Pack were only able to muster 6 of their own.
In the 3rd coach Ken Gernander changed up the lines, moving Thomas Pock, who’d been playing on Anisimov’s wing at even strength, back to defense full time and moving Hugh Jessiman up into his spot. That move paid off at 13:02 when Jessiman and Anisimov lead a rush into the Worcester zone and Jessiman fed a trailing Hutchinson in the high slot. Hutchinson skated the puck in on net, feeding a perfect pass to Owens at the left post, where he was able to lift the puck into the open side of the net. It was Owens’ second goal of the game, and fourth point in the last 3 games and gave the Pack a 3-1 lead. Only a minute and four seconds later the Pack would get a somewhat fortuitous 5-on-3 power play opportunity after Thomas Pock pushed Sharks forward Dennis Packard into Wiikman, resulting in Packard getting called for Goaltender Interference. When Riley Armstrong persisted in arguing the call, he was assessed and additional two minutes for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, giving the Pack a two man advantage for a full two minutes. It took less than one for the Pack to cash in, when Lauri Korpikoski, parked just off the right post, threaded a pass through the crease to P.A. Parenteau at the right post, who had a wide open net to sweep the puck into, essentially putting the game away. The Sharks would get a couple more opportunities to reduce the lead, but Wiikman would prove equal the each challenge, stopping all 12 of the Sharks 3rd period shots while the Pack put up 13 of their own.
With his 39 for 40 save performance, Wiikman moved back into 8th place among all AHL goaltenders in both goals against average and save percentage (LeNeveu is 13th in both categories). During the pre-game show this evening Bob Crawford revealed that Wiikman has been battling a nagging injury, which helps explain why LeNeveu has gotten the vast majority of starts since his arrival. While the injury hasn’t been serious enough to keep Wiikman off the ice, with LeNeveu playing as well as he has since arriving from San Antonio, it’s allowed the coaching staff to err to the side of caution.
The other return of note was that of captain Andrew Hutchinson, who was back in the lineup after missing four games with a hip injury. Hutchinson’s influence on the Pack power play was immediate and obvious, with the Pack going 2 for 4 with the man advantage after getting shut out in 21 attempts in the four games Hutchinson missed. He remains at the top of the ranks for scoring by defensemen in the AHL, with 55 points in 55 games, maintaining an 8 point lead over the second place scorer, despite playing 6 games less.
After leaving last night’s contest early, Brodie Dupont did not play tonight due to what was termed “illness”. That left the Pack with only 9 available forwards. They dressed 8 defensemen instead, with Pock taking a regular even strength shift at wing on the second line through two periods, and Ryan Constant getting the odd shift at wing to complement an occasional shift on defense.
- After playing most of the season at a point-per-game pace, Greg Moore has only 3 points (1g, 2a) in his past 11 games. He’s been a -4 in that time.
- Artem Anisimov has moved into a tie for 15th place in rookie scoring.
- Dane Byers served the last game of his three game suspension tonight and will return to the line up on Wednesday
- The Pack have yet to lose in regulation after going into the 3rd period with the lead, going 34-0-1-3 when taking a lead into the 3rd.
1. Owens (4) (Anisimov, Pock) 1:23
1. Ouellette (8) (Anisimov, Hutchinson) 16:15 (PP)
2. Staubitz (4) (Busenburg, Packard) 11:57
3. Owens (5) (Hutchinson, Jessiman) 13:04
3. Parenteau (26) (Korpikoski, Baranka) 15:35 (PP)
Korpikoski – Moore – Parenteau
Owens – Anisimov – Pock
Lee – Ouellette – Jessiman
Gratton – Constant
Baranka – Brown
Hutchinson – Potter
Sauer – Taylor
1. Miika Wiikman
2. Mike Ouellette
3. Jordan Owens
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