After Wednesday night’s game, in which the Pack allowed 39 shots against goaltender Miika Wiikman, coach Ken Gernander challenged his team to start providing Wiikman with better support. Tonight they responded, limiting the Springfield Falcons to only 16 shots while firing off 45 of their own as they clinched a playoff berth for the 11th consecutive season with a dominant 4-1 win over the Springfield Falcons.
The game got off to a rocky start when just 7 seconds in Lauri Korpikoski hit Springfield’s Mike Gabinet from behind along the boards near the penalty boxes. Gabinet had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher, and Korpikoski was given a five minute boarding major and a game misconduct, two minutes of which were canceled out by an instigator penalty taken by the Falcon’s Tim Sestito, who challenged Korpikoski immediately after the hit. Both players also received 5 minute fighting majors. The Pack provided a glimpse of what was to come when they dominated the two minutes of 4-on-4 play and killed the remaining three minute power play off with relative ease. It took them until 16.36 of the period to get on the board, after defenseman Ivan Baranka fired a shot from the center point which was initially blocked, but P.A. Parenteau found the rebound on his backhand to put home his 30th goal of the season on a power play. But it took the Falcons only 1:50 to tie things up with a power play goal of their own, the result of some really nice passing that ended with a cross-slot feed to Springfield’s Rob Schremp for a one-timer from the right circle. The period ended with the two teams knotted at one, and the Pack having the slight edge in shots at 10-8.
The second period had a lot more flow to it, as referee Kyle Rehman swallowed his whistle after a penalty-filled first. The score didn’t change, but by the final third of the period the Pack had complete control of the game, spending the majority of time in the Springfield zone and firing shots on Falcon goalie Devan Dubnyk at will. But Dubnyk was equal to the challenge, stopping all 14 shots the Pack put on net. At the other end, Wiikman had only two shots to contend with all period.
The Falcons came out strong in the 3rd, and it looked like they might make a game of it through the first two minutes or so, but the Pack soon re-established their territorial dominance. But Dunbnyk came up with save after save, with some of his best coming off chances by Artem Anisimov and Bruce Graham, who finished with 6 and 5 shots on goal, respectively. Finally, with just under two minutes left to play, Parenteau fired a hard, low slapper from the top of the right circle. Dubnyk stopped the initial shot, but the rebound trickled away from him. Center Tim Selsito missed the puck as he attempted to clear it from the crease, allowing Dane Byers to sneak in and backhand it into the empty side of the net for the 2-1 lead.
Since there was less than two minutes to play in the game, the Falcons pulled Dubnyk as soon as they got the puck into the Pack zone after the ensuing faceoff. But even with the extra skater they were unable to control the puck in the Pack zone and at the 19.00 minute mark, after Mike Ouellette won a defensive zone draw, Josh Gratton controlled the puck and fed Mark Lee in the neutral zone for the easy empty netter and his first AHL goal of the season. Yet Springfield didn’t learn their lesson, opting to pull Dubnyk again for an offensive zone faceoff, and once again Ouellette, the Pack’s leading faceoff man, won the draw, feeding Gratton for an empty netter of his own. By the final buzzer the Pack had outshot the Falcons 45 to 16 (21-6 in the 3rd), with Dubnyk being the only reason the game didn’t turn into a blowout.
- Bruce Graham was called up from Charlotte to sub for Brodie Dupont, who suffered what was described as a “facial cut” in a fight in Friday night’s game.
- Hugh Jessiman missed his second game with a groin injury.
- Wiikman moved from 10th up to 7th in the league in goals against average with the win. He’s currently 6th in save percentage.
- Parenteau has 7 points in his last 4 games and is 5th place over all in league scoring
1. Parenteau (30) (Baranka, Moore) 16.46 (PP)
3. Byers (21) (Parenteau, Moore) 18:06
3. Lee (1) (Gratton) 19:00 (EN)
3. Gratton (9) (Ouellette) 19:29 (EN)
Byers – Moore – Parenteau
Lee – Anisimov – Gratton
Owens – Ouellette – Pock
Graham – Korpikoski
Potter – Hutchinson
Baranka – Brown
Taylor – Sauer
Wiikman / LeNeveu
1. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
2. Devan Dubnyk
3. Dane Byers
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