The Wilke-Barre/Scranton Penguins arrived in Hartford on Saturday night riding a three game winning streak that had propelled them into second place in the East Division. They undoubtedly hoped to extend their lead over the third place Bridgeport Sound Tigers with a victory against the Hartford Wolf Pack, but left Connecticut’s capital disappointed, having dropped a 4-1 decision to the home team as the American Hockey League wrapped up the first half of its season and headed into the All-Star break.
The Pack spread the scoring around, getting goals from rookie defenseman David Urquhart, All-Star Artem Anisimov, the suddenly-hot Mike Ouellette, and Greg Moore, who broke a nine-game goal-scoring drought with an empty net goal in the final minute of play. Goaltender Miika Wiikman bounced back from his last start, in which he was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on thirteen shots, and stopped 32 of 33 shots he faced from the league’s third highest scoring team.
The game didn’t start well for Wolf Pack, who fell behind on a power play goal just 3:39 in when Mark Letestu was able to sweep his own rebound around a sprawled Wiikman. The lead held through the remainder of an opening period that featured some good scoring chances for both sides, and a heavyweight bout between Hartford’s Brandon Sugden and the Penguin’s Paul Bissonnette at 8:36. After the two heavyweights traded a number of rights that failed to reach their intended target, Bissonnette tried to pin Sugden up against the glass. In the process, he lost his hold on the 6-4, 230 pound winger, who was able to get his right hand free and fire off a volley of bombs which hit their mark and dropped the baby Penguin to his knees.
Hartford started its comeback just shy of the midpoint of the second period. Urquhart accepted a feed from Brodie Dupont, who’d earn the game’s first star honors with two primary assists and continued strong play along the boards, and fired a low shot towards the net from the center blueline. The shot travelled through a clump of bodies and may have deflected off a Penguin defender before beating Wilke-Barre netminder Adam Berkhoel between the pads.
The third period kicked off with the score knotted at one and the Pack holding a one-shot advantage, 20-19. Hartford’s heroes would waste little time taking the lead on the power play in the final frame.
PlanetUSA All-Star team representative Anisimov gave the Pack their first lead of the game and the eventual game-winner at 1:37 of the period on the power play. Defenseman Brian Fahey put a shot on goal from the point which deflected off Dupont, who was parked right in front of the net causing havoc. The puck trickled to the right of the goal, where Anisimov pounced to put it over Berkhoel on the backhand. The tally was Anisimov’s 21st, tying him for seventh in the league in goals. His 48th point moved him into a tie for fourth over-all in the AHL. It also gave him a point in eight consecutive games, tying the season high points-scoring streak by P.A. Parenteau that ended Friday night. It was also the seventh game-winner of the season for the second-year pro, which ties him for fifth over-all in the league.
Ouellette gave the Wolf Pack some breathing room at 7:52 with his eight of the season, also on the power play. Tom Pyatt carried the puck into the Penguin zone along the left wing boards before dishing it to Ouellette, who one-timed it past Berkhoel as he crashed down the slot. It was the Dartmouth graduate’s fifth point in his last five games. Pyatt’s assist gives him points in four straight games, and 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in his last 23 games.
Wiikman was forced to come up with a number of game-saving stops in the third, including a saves on the Penguins’ leading goal scorer Chris Minard and and Nick Johnson. He finished with 32 saves to earn second star honors.
Moore put the game away with just 58 seconds remaining when he scored his first goal in nine games into an empty net off. The goal came off an unselfish pass from Patrick Rissmiller, who controlled the puck in the Pack end and carried it up ice and across the blueline before dishing it to Moore for his 13th of the season.
Hartford entered the game with a chance to tie the Providence Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division, but a win over Springfield allowed the baby B’s to remain two points ahead of the Pack. Portland and Worcester also won their final games before the All-Star Game break, leaving the Pack tied with Portland with 51 points while Worcester is one point behind with 50. Both teams have a game in hand.
- Rookie defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti missed the game after taking a puck in the face in Friday’s game against Lowell. The New Jersey native lost four teeth, but Bruce Berlet confirms that he’ll take part in the AHL All-Star Classic festivities, which kick off tomorrow afternoon in Worcester.
- With Sanguinetti out Vladimir Denisov returned to the line up.
- Jordan Owens returned to the line-up after missing two games with a viral infection.
- With Owens back up to speed, Mike Taylor was reassigned to Charlotte of the ECHL.
- Hartford finished two for four with the man advantage. The Pack power play has climbed to eighth in the league, converting at a 91.1% rate. The Pack penalty kill has also been improving, climbing to 12th in the league, killing off 83.6%
1. Letestu (13) (Jeffrey) 3:39 (PP)
2. Urquhart (5) (Dupont, Parenteau) 9:30
3. Anisimov (21) (Dupont, Fahey) 1:37 (PP)
3. Ouellette (8) (Pyatt, Fahey) 7:52 (PP)
3. Moore (13) (Rissmiller) 19:02 (EN)
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Owens – Rissmiller – Weise
Pyatt – Ouellette – Ford
DiDiomete – Moore – Sugden
Denisov – Potter
Nightengale – Fahey
Urquhart – Sauer
Wiikman / Zaba
1. Brodie Dupont
2. Miika Wiikman
3. Mike Ouellette
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