With a share of first place on the line, the Hartford Wolf Pack proved they’re not quite ready to be division leaders, dropping a 5-2 decision to a depleted first place Providence Bruin team in Hartford. A trio of turnovers resulted in three first period Bruin goals and impressive goaltending by Providence starter Tuukka Rask turned them into a deficit from which the Pack were unable to recover.
The game got off to an inauspicious start — though one that will be familiar to Rangers fans — when the home team surrendered it’s 6th shorthanded goal of the season just 4:13 into the game. As he crossed the Providence blue line defenseman Brian Fahey passed the puck into a tangle of player skates, where Wacey Rabbit picked it up to lead Jeremy Reich on a breakaway. The third year pro faked the shot before deking to his backhand and roofing the puck over Wolf Pack netminder Miika Wiikman.
Hartford capitalized on a turnover of their own just under four minutes later when P.A. Parenteau picked off a Providence outlet pass in the neutral zone and lead a 3-on-1 into the Bruin zone. The Wolf Pack’s leading scorer fed a pretty backhand pass across the slot to the bottom of the right circle, where Artem Anisimov one-timed it over Rask’s glove to knot the score at one.
The Bruins, who are missing five of their starters to call-up or injury, recaptured the lead at 10:47 after Corey Potter put an outlet pass into the skates of Providence forward Aaron Clarke just over the Hartford blue line. The puck deflected back into the defensive zone, where Zach Hamill picked it up and fired a slap shot from the top of the right circle. Wiikman got a glove on it, but managed only to tip the puck up in the air and watch helplessly as it fell behind him into the goal to make it 2-1.
The Baby Bruins extended their lead to 3-1 less than two minutes later. This time Fahey put a perfect feed on the stick of Matt Marquardt just inside the Hartford zone. The Providence rookie skated around Pack forward Patrick Rissmiller and in on Wiikman, snapping a shot over Wiikman’s glove for his sixth of the year at 12:09.
The game was essentially over at that point, as Rask proved nearly impenetrable. The Bruins chased Wiikman from the net at 6:01 of the second period when Ned Lukacevic took a feed from Rabbit behind the Pack net and wrapped it around the right post for his second of the season. It was a rough night for Wiikman, who stopped only 9 of 13 shots he faced. Matt Zaba proved perfect against the 18 shots he faced through 33:38 of play in relief.
At the other end of the ice Rask thwarted Pack shooters time and time again. After getting beat by Anisimov on the first period, the Finnish backstop stoned the 20-year old Russian on three different occasions, in addition to making big third period stops on a pair of back-to-back chances on Greg Moore and Dale Weise midway through the second.
It took Hartford’s fifth power play opportunity for them finally put another puck past Rask. Parenteau earned his 18th of the season just seven seconds into a boarding penalty whistled on Andrew Bodnarchuk at 10:17 when Anisimov won the offensive zone face off and Bobby Sanguinetti fed Parenteau for a one-timer from the top of the left circle that beat Rask on the stick side.
Providence added an empty netter at 18:44 to complete the scoring. Fahey completed his hard-earned -3 by bobbling the puck at the right point, where Reich picked it up and skated to center ice before shooting it into the empty net for his 14th of the season.
The win gives the Providence a four point lead in the Atlantic Division. The Pack are now in a 3-way tie for second place with the Worcester Sharks, who earned their 46th and 47th points with a 6-5 overtime win in Norfolk, and the Portland Pirates, who lost to Manchester, 3-2. Hartford face Portland in a rare afternoon game on Monday at 1pm.
Highlights from the game are available from AHL Live.
1. PRO Reich, (13) (Rabbit), 4:13 (SH)
1. HFD Anisimov, (19) (Parenteau), 8:06
1. PRO Hamill, (5) (Clarke), 10:47
1. PRO Marquardt, (6) , 12:09
2. PRO Lukacevic, (2) (Rabbit), 6:01
3. HFD Parenteau, (18) (Sanguinetti, Anisimov), 10:24 (PP)
3. PRO Reich, (14) , 18:44 (EN)
Owens – Rissmiller – Moore
Dupont – Anismov – Parenteau
Pyatt – Ouellette – Weise
DiDiomete – Soryal – Stefanishion
Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Fahey – Nightengale
Wiikman / Zaba
1. Tuukka Rask
2. Jeremy Reich
3. Wacey Rabbit
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