For the third time this season the Hartford Wolf Pack faced off against the Lowell Devils on Friday and for the third time this season the baby Devils came away with a one-goal victory, defeating the Pack 3-2 in Hartford. The loss denied the Wolf Pack from earning a tie for first place in the division, and coupled with victories by Portland and Worcester saw them drop all the way down to the fourth spot in the Atlantic Division, only three points ahead of the fifth place Devils.
The two teams traded first period goals, with the Pack getting on the board first. Defenseman Michael Sauer, who played a strong all-around game, potted his second goal of the season with a hard low slap shot from the right point which beat Devils goaltender Jeff Fraze through Mike Ouellette’s screen.
The Devils answered back exactly one minute later, at 14:45 when a turnover deep in the Hartford defensive zone lead to an unassisted goal for California native Ryan Murphy. Murphy picked up the puck behind the goal line, skated behind the net and wrapped it around the right side, sliding it under Pack goaltender Matt Zaba’s pads to tie things up at one.
The teams kicked off the second period with a pair of fights, just four seconds apart. At 2:15 Devin DiDiomete squared off with Brad Mills in a bout in which Mills took the decision based on both quantity and quality of blows. Off the ensuing faceoff Brandon Sugden dropped the mitts with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond in a heavyweight match-up that ended in a draw, with both players landing some good shots.
The Pack had a couple of good opportunities to take the lead in the period. At 8:32, just as a Hartford power play expired, Patrick Rissmiller, who returned to the line up after one game as a healthy scratch, rang a shot off the cross bar. Then, with only 25.9 seconds remaining in the frame it appeared the Wolf Pack had taken the lead, when David Urquhart fired a slap shot through a screen into the Lowell net. But the goal was immediately waved off by referee Nigel Pelltier, who was in the process of whistling play dead in order to assess an interference penalty on Corey Potter. The penalty negated the final 1:12 of a Hartford power play. It was Potter’s second (deserved) interference call of the game.
Instead, it was Lowell who took the lead, just 3:02 into the third period after Stephen Gionta won the offensive zone draw off Artem Anisimov, leading to some scrambly play by the Pack in their own zone. Lowell defender Mark Frazer ended up with the puck at the right point, and wristed a shot through a tangle of bodies to beat Zaba through the five-hole at 3:02.
The Pack answered back at 12:03. Just as a Hartford five-on-three expired Zaba fired a long pass to Anisimov at the Lowell blueline. Anisimov, who was added to the PlanetUSA line up for the AHL All Star Classic earlier in the day, carried the puck into the Lowell zone along the right wing boards, where he was met by not one, but two Lowell players. Despite being outnumbered the 6-4, 205 pound center managed to come off the boards with the puck, feeding Ouellette for a shot from the right circle. Fraze made the initial stop, but left a rebound which Tom Pyatt put home for his second goal in as many games and tenth of the season. He’d also picked up an assist on Sauer’s first period goal, making it his fourth multi-point game of the season. His 23 points in 43 games more than double his11-point output in 41 AHL games last season.
The Devils scored the game winner 2:45 later when a quick snap shot from Anisimov’s former Lokomotiv Yaroslavl teammate, Alexander Vasyunov bounced off Zaba’s glove, dropping in front of the net where Barry Tallackson was waiting to bang home the rebound.
Hartford’s hope of a comeback was dealt a blow at 16:33 when Jared Nightengale was assessed an extra two minutes after starting a fight with Spiller. Nightengale was responding to a high, open-ice hit by Spiller on Anisimov, which went unpenalized. After killing the penalty the Pack applied good pressure in the Lowell end. But after a hand pass led to a neutral zone draw, which Ouellette won, Brian Fahey passed the puck about six feet wide of his defense partner, sending it deep into the Hartford zone, and preventing a final Hartford attack before time ran out.
- Bobby Sanguinetti was hit in the face with a shot with just over three minutes remaining in the second period and did not return. Bruce Bertlet reports that the New Jersey native lost two teeth and is questionable for the AHL All Star Classic, which opens on Sunday.
- The Devils, who play a strong, smothering defensive system, shut down the Pack’s top line of Brodie Dupont, Anisimov and P.A. Parenteau for the first time in eight games, ending Parenteau’s season-high eight-game scoring streak. The line was -2 on the night.
- With his assist on Pyatt’s goal, Anisimov extended his scoring streak to seven games. It is the third seven-game scoring streak for the 20-year old center this season.
- Vladimir Denisov returned to the press box as a healthy scratch in order to make room for Fahey. Matt Stefanishion was also a healthy scratch. Jordan Owens (viral infection), Justin Soryal (broken hand), and Dane Byers (knee) were the other scratches for the Pack.
1. Sauer (2) (Ford, Pyatt) 13:45
1. Murphy (7) 14:45
3. Fraser (2) (Davis, Gionta) 3:02
3. Pyatt (10) (Ouellette, Anisimov) 12:03 (PP)
3. Tallackson (6) (Vasyunov, Pelley) 14:48
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Rissmiller – Moore – Weise
Pyatt – Ouellette – Ford
DiDiomete – Taylor – Sugden
Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Nightengale – Fahey
Zaba / Wiikman
1. Barry Tallackson
2. Jeff Frazee
3. Tommy Pyatt
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