The Grand Rapids Griffins entered Friday’s game in Hartford tied for the top spot in the Western Conference, riding a a 7-0-1 streak and having earned shutouts in four of their previous six games. They left the arena with their first regulation loss in almost three weeks, falling to the Hartford Wolf Pack 3-1 in one of the Pack’s best all-around efforts this season.
Miika Wiikman turned in his best performance in at least a month, stopping 31 of 32 shots to earn first star honors. Rookie goalie Daniel Larsson, winner of five straight for Detroit’s top farm club — including two shutouts — earned recognition as the game’s second star with 30 stops on 32 shots.
Neither team got on the board until the halfway point of the game. The Griffins had the early edge in play, outshooting the Pack 12-9 in the first period, and both goalies made some good stops to keep the game scoreless through the first 30 minutes.
Hartford struck first, after a strong rush by Artem Anisimov lead to Brodie Dupont’s 7th goal of the season. Anisimov carried the puck into the Griffins’ zone, through the middle and around a defender, firing a shot from the bottom of the left face off circle which just squeezed through Larsson’s pads. Dupont was parked in the crease and able to get his stick on the loose puck first, tapping it over the goal line at 10:01 of the second period.
Grand Rapids answered back on the power play just 4:43 later. After P.A. Parenteau and Greg Moore combined for a good shorthanded chance in the offensive zone, the Griffins countered 3-on-2. Francis Lemeiux carried the puck down the left side boards, feeding a pass out in front from just off the left post to a wide-open Francis Pare, who put it in the open side of the net.
That’s how the second period finished, with the shots totaling 10-9 in favor of the baby Red Wings.
Hartford would take control in the third, and the hard-working line of Tommy Pyatt, Mike Ouellette and Jordan Owens — undeniably the Pack’s most consistent through the final month of 2008 — would be rewarded for their effort with the game-winner at 10:49 of the period. Owens controlled the puck in the right corner and fed it to Pyatt, who delivered a blind backhand pass from the right post through the crease on to the tape of an unguarded Ouellette, who scored for the second consecutive game.
Pareanteau put the icing on the cake with just 29 seconds remaining when he gathered the puck in the Pack zone, poked it past the Griffin defender and dodged past him to pick it back up and fire it in the empty net from the Griffins blue line.
Wiikman came up big when he needed to throughout the game, doing a good job of controlling rebounds and looking confident in his return after two consecutive starts by backup Matt Zaba. He was helped by the return of three of the Pack’s top defensemen. Corey Potter played his first game back since being reassigned by the Rangers on Monday, Michael Sauer returned after missing the Pack’s last game after taking a puck to the face in the game before, and Brian Fahey returned from the concussion he suffered in a game in Hershey on December 3rd.
The Pack will look to build their first winning streak of the new year when the league-leading Hershey Bears visits the XL Center tomorrow night at 7:00pm.
- Friday’s win was the 500th in Wolf Pack franchise history.
- Dupont looked to have been seriously injured when he crashed feet first into the boards after being nudged by a Griffin forward as the two players chased the puck in the third period. He was unable to make his way back to the bench without help and couldn’t put any weight on his right foot, but surprisingly managed to return after missing only a shift.
- Defenseman Vladimir Denisov missed his first game of the season. No word on whether he was injured or simply a healthy scratch.
- With his empty net goal and an assist on Dupont’s goal, Parenteau overtook Anisimov for the team lead in goals with 15, and tied him for the team lead in points with 34.
- While Anisimov’s goal-scoring streak ended at 3 games, he extended his point-scoring streak to 5 games (3 goals, 5 assists).
- Bobby Sanguinetti earned an assist on Parenteau’s empty-netter, giving him points (4) in 3 straight games.
- With the return of Potter, Sauer and Fahey, Chris Murray and Ethan Graham have been assigned to Charlotte of the ECHL.
- In other ECHL news, the Rangers re-assigned forward Tomas Zaborsky from the Charlotte Checkers to the Dayton Bombers of the ECHL.
2. Dupont (7) (Anisimov, Parenteau) 10:01
2. Pare (10) (Lemieux, McGrath) 14:44 (PP)
3. Ouellette (4) (Pyatt, Owens) 10:49
3. Parenteau (15) (Sanguinetti) 19:31 (EN)
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
Soryal – Moore – Weise
DiDiomete – Rissmiller – Sugden
Nightengale – Potter
Fahey – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Wiikman / Zaba
1. Miika Wiikman
2. Daniel Larsson
3. Mike Ouellette
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