The Hartford Wolf Pack got their Christmas break off to a good start, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Toronto Marlies 4-3 in Hartford on Sunday. Goaltender Miika Wiikman bounced back after being pulled in Saturday’s 6-2 loss to Hamilton, earning the win in relief for Matt Zaba, who started the game but was yanked himself after giving up 3 goals on 11 shots through the first 22:04 of play.
Zaba’s afternoon got off to a rough start just 1:46 in when Richard Petiot lofted a long shot on goal from the neutral zone. The puck took a funny bounce just as defenseman David Urquhart skated in front of the Hartford netminder, preventing him from seeing the carom, which bounced by him and into the net to give the Marlies the 1-0 lead.
After killing off two Toronto power plays, the Wolf Pack knotted the score on their first man advantage at 7:09 of the period. Artem Anisimov stole the puck in the neutral zone and with a surprising burst of speed split two Toronto defensemen to go in on goaltender Adam Munro alone. Anisimov was unable to squeeze the puck through Munro’s five-hole as he was being hooked from behind, but Tommy Pyatt was right behind him to flick the rebound past Munro for his sixth goal of the season.
As seems to happen often, Hartford followed up a great offensive chance by immediately giving up a goal against late in the period. Just past the 19-minute mark of the first period, P.A. Parenteau beat Munro to a dump-in, controlling the puck and skating out from the right corner towards the empty net. His shorthanded shot was stopped by defenseman Anton Stralman. The Marlies immediately countered, and NHL veteran Bates Battaglia was able to retrieve a dump-in in the right corner, skate out and beat Zaba with just 41 seconds remaining in the period.
Toronto extended the lead to two early in the second. Defenseman Andy Schneider fired a slapshot from the right point which Zaba stopped, but the rebound went directly to Alex Foster, who lifted the puck past Zaba for his sixth of the season. It was the eleventh (and final) shot Zaba would face in the game.
If Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander hoped the goaltending change would help wake up his troops, he was right. Less than two minutes later Jordan Owens scored his sixth of the season and fourth in the last five games when he batted home an elevated puck off a pass from the left half boards by defenseman Vladimir Denisov.
Matt Stefanishion scored his first AHL goal, and earned his first point in six games with the Wolf Pack, at 11:01 of the second when he unleashed a blistering slapshot from the top of the face off circles, beating Munro cleanly. Denisov earned the primary assist, giving him his first multi-point game for the Pack. The goal came just 1:02 after Hartford killed off a full four minutes of penalty time to Brandon Sugden.
The game-winner came just five minutes later, on the power play. Parenteau picked up the dump-in in the right corner, and fed it to a breaking Anisimov, who was stoned by Munro. The rebound found its way on to the stick of Greg Moore, who put it over the sprawled goalie for his tenth of the season.
Wiikman stopped all 16 shots he faced to earn the win, improving his personal win-loss record to 11-10-0-3. The shots on goal for the game were even at 27 apiece.
With the win the Pack reclaimed sole possession of third place in the Atlantic Division. The team now gets to enjoy the week off before they set off on a three game weekend with games in Bridgeport, Springfield and Lowell.
- Brodie Dupont missed the game with an undisclosed injury after being leveled by a shoulder to the head in Saturday’s game against Hamilton.
- The game featured three fights. Justin Soryal (nicknamed “Scaryal” by his teammates on account of his fighting prowess) faced Schneider at 14:13 of the second, but Schneider lost his balance and went down before things really got started. Dale Weise faced Todd Perry 31 seconds later in a close and somewhat sloppy bout which Weise probably won on the strength of a few quality blows. And Jordan Nightengale took on Kyle Rogers at 5:01 of the third. Nightengale had the early advantage, knocking Rogers off balance while connecting with a number of punches, but got tagged pretty good with an uppercut towards the end.
- With his two assists, Anisimov moved back into a tie for first in scoring on the team with Parenteau, with 28 points in 31 games. However, the young Russian hasn’t scored a point at even strength since being put on a line with Soryal and Weise seven games ago (he has 5 power play points in that time).
- Gernander iced three lines for the most part, with the bottom three forwards getting occasional time with one of the top three centers.
Moore – Rissmiller – Parenteau
Soryal – Anisimov – Weise
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
DiDiomete – Steffanision – Sugden
Nightengale – Graham
Sauer – Urquhart
Denisov – Sanguinetti
Zaba / Wiikman
1. Tommy Pyatt
2. Jordan Owens
3. Artem Anisimov
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