The Hartford Wolf Pack got their 2008-2009 season off to a roaring start with a dominating first period performance over their division rivals from Springfield, piling up three goals to take a 3-0 lead to the dressing room at the end of twenty minutes. But they let their early success go to their heads and returned to play a sloppy second period in which they allowed the Falcons to knot the score with three unanswered goals of their own. In the final frame a 4-on-4 goal by Ryan Potulny and a strong performance by goaltender Devan Dubnyk were all the Falcons needed to send the opening night Hartford crowd home disappointed.
The Wolf Pack started off quickly, scoring on their first shot of the game at 1:05 of the first period when Artem Anisimov carried the puck into the Springfield zone, dished it to Brodie Dupont on the left wing boards and continued driving to the net, drawing two Springfield players with him. That allowed defenseman Vladimir Denisov, who started his North American pro career in the Colorado Avalanche system last season, to sneak in from the point undetected and fire a feed from Dupont past Dubnyk. Consecutive interference penalties by Andreas Jamtin at 1:55 and Mike Ouellette at 2:27 gave the visitors a full 1:28 of 5-on-3 power play time, but the Pack executed the penalty kill perfectly, limiting the Falcons to just a single shot.
The first of three first period fights took place between Dover, Massachusetts native Chris Murray, who was the subject of this Hartford Courant story on Friday, and Hans Benson, who issued the challenge in response to a big hit thrown by Murray. Murry got the upper hand in the fight, but Benson got the extra minor for starting it, and Dane Byers made him pay for it with a perfect deflection of rookie Bobby Sanguinetti’s shot from the left point to give Hartford the 2-0 lead halfway through the period.
The game’s second fight came just thirty six seconds later when Ouellette and Sebastian Bisaillion — neither of whom will ever been mistaken for fighters — wrestled briefly in the neutral zone. The third and final fight of the game came 15:44 of the period, after both teams had traded unsuccessful power play opportunities. Scrappy 2nd-year winger Jordan Owens answered Falcon pest Theo Peckham’s call and the two traded some nice shots in an evenly-matched bout.
Center Tom Pyatt, who split last season between the Wolf Pack and Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL, sent a strong message that he intends to stick in Hartford this season when he blocked a Springfield shot with under a minute to go in the period, chased down the rebound, and blazed down the right wing boards, cutting in across the front of the net and beating Dubnyk on the far side to give the Pack the commanding three goal lead. When the horn sounded to mark the end of the frame, the Pack had outshot the Falcons 17 to 4 and it looked like last season’s dominance of the Falcons — they won all but one of 10 head-to-head games with the Springfield last season — would continue.
But the players might as well have swapped jerseys during the intermission and come out playing for the opposite team in the second because the Falcon’s domination of the Pack in the period was nearly as complete as the home team’s had been of them in the first. An early period interference penalty by Denisov lead to a Springfield power play goal at 1:28 and a series of lazy penalties and general lack of mental sharpness kept the Pack on their heels throughout the period. At 7:42 the still-unsigned Tysen Dowzak lost track of the Falcon’s Ryan Potulny, who was allowed to take three swats at the puck from the crease before he put it past Hartford goaltender Miika Wiikman. Wiikman didn’t look particularly sharp after missing the Pack’s entire pre-season while accompanying the parent New York Ranger to the Czech Republic to open the NHL season. He stopped just 18 of 22 Springfield shots in the game.
The final goal of the period came with just 1:02 to go on a highlight reel effort by new Falcon center Gilbert Brule, who deked his way past 2008 Calder Cup champion Brian Fahey and beat Wiikman with a pretty backhander. The teams left the ice with the score knotted at three and the Falcons with a 16-8 shot advantage on the period.
The Pack played a better third period, outshooting the Falcons 12-2, but Potulny got his second of the game halfway through the period during a 4-on-4 after Bryan Young was awarded a Diving penalty to match Owen’s Interference call. The Pack had two power play opportunities in the final half of the period — the absence of last season’s captain Andrew Hutchinson on the point was obvious — but Dubnyk shut the door to earn his team the 4-3 come-from-behind victory.
For more on the game, see Bob Crawford’s recap at the brand new Wolf Pack web site, John Altavilla’s story in the Hartford Courant, or Mitch Beck’s take at Howlings. See the game summary for all the pertinent stats. The Pack are back in action today when they host the rival Bridgeport Sound Tigers at 4pm.
1. HFD Denisov (1) (Dupont, Anisimov) 1:06
1. HFD Byers (1) (Sanguinetti, Moore) 9:58 (PP)
1. HFD Pyatt (1) 19:15
Byers – Moore – Jessiman
Dupont – Anismov – Parenteau
Jamtin – Pyatt – Weise
Owens- Ouellette – Soryal
Potter – Sanguinetti
Fahey – Denisov
Murray – Dowzak
Wiikman / Zaba
1. Ryan Potulny
2. Devan Dubnyk
3. Gilbert Brule
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