The Hartford Wolf Pack battled hard in their rematch with the Manitoba Moose at the XL Center on Satuday, but fell short to the AHL’s top team after a turnover in the defensive zone lead to a breakaway goal by AHL scoring star Jason Krog with 1:20 remaining in the tightly-contested game. The Moose added an empty net, power play goal 45 seconds later to ice the 4-1 victory and hand the Wolf Pack their third defeat in their last four contests.
Sean Avery made his Wolf Pack debut, seeing the ice in all situations with a mix of linemates, including the top scoring duo of P.A. Parenteau and Artem Anisimov. Avery looked good physically, showing his characteristic speed and getting involved along the boards and in front of the net, and he set his line mates up for a few good scoring chances, most notably with a between-the-legs pass from behind the goal line to Parenteau late in the first period. As you’d expect from a player who hasn’t played a game in two months and had only a week to get back into game shape, the scrappy winger displayed some signs of rust, firing wide on a chance in the third period and making more than his share of turnovers, including one on a developing odd-man rush in the third when he left the puck behind in the neutral zone. But there were no indications that the NHL-mandated anger management treatment had altered his on-ice persona, as the feisty forward was his usual yappy self, engaging opponents verbally throughout the game and during promotional breaks and drawing attention in a couple of post-whistle scrums.
Manitoba took an early lead in the game when the rebound of Pierre-Cedric Labrie’s point shot came out through the legs of unsuspecting Pack defenseman Michael Sauer directly to Manitoba forward Dusty Collins, who used the Sauer as a screen as he slapped the puck past Wolf Pack starter Miika Wiikman from just above the hashmarks.
Avery drew attention 1:06 later when two Manitoba players got in his face behind the net after a shot on goal. His new teammates immediately jumped to his defense, specifically Parenteau, who earned a extra minor for his participation, and Jared Nightingale, who dropped the gloves with Nathan McIver in an even scrap. It was the second fight of the night, following a bout between Dale Weise and Alexandre Bolduc off the opening faceoff.
The period finished with Hartford taking a 12-9 edge in shots, despite falling behind 1-0.
Manitoba retained the one goal lead until 13:53 of the second period when Bolduc cashed in with 13 seconds remaining on a questionable interference call against Parenteau. The Wolf Pack’s leading scorer was penalized after he and a Moose player bumped in the neutral zone and the Manitoba forward crumpled to the ice. On the ensuing power play Bolduc put the puck in the open side of the net after Shaun Heshka’s slap shot from the left point deflected to him at the right side of the crease. It was one of ten shots the visitors would put on Wiikman’s cage in the period, while the home team managed just four in the frame.
Hartford scored its lone goal of the game at 3:58 of the third when Dale Weise deflected Brian Fahey’s slap shot from the right point. The puck squeezed through Goehring’s five-hole, trickling over the line to give Weise his sixth of the season and cut Manitoba’s two goal lead in half.
The Wolf Pack would battle hard in the third, earning an 11-7 edge in shots and forcing Goehring to make a number of timely saves, most notably on chances by Anisimov and Brodie Dupont in the final half of the period.
Then, with 1:20 remaining Vladimir Denisov’s breakout pass to Greg Moore went off the captain’s skate, deflecting deeper into the Wolf Pack zone, where former Ranger Krog pounced in it, breaking in alone on Wiikman. The Swedish-born goaltender has strugged on breakaways all season, and this time was no different, as Krog beat him through the five hole for his 18th of the season.
Devin DiDiomete, who was the culprit on the late major penalty that cost the Wolf Pack Wednesday night’s game against the Moose, earned a slashing call after the goal was scored, leaving the Pack shorthanded for the remainder of the game. Parenteau, who was visibly upset with the officiating following his second period interference call, continued his barrage of complaints against referee Shaun Davis, ultimately earning himself an unsportsmanlike penalty and a ten minute misconduct. Jason Jaffray earned an unsportsmanlike call himself, maintaining Manitoba’s 5-on-4 advantage.
Despite being a man down, Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander called Wiikman to the bench to give the Pack and extra skater as they attempted to make up the two goal lead. With the teams skating five aside and the Pack net empty Guillaume Desbiens added the empty net, power play marker at 19:25, resulting in a 4-1 score that looked more lopsided than the game itself was.
Goehring finished with 26 save on 27 shots while Wiikman saved 22 of 25. The Wolf Pack were 0-for-2 on the power play while the visitors went 2-for-6.
The loss, coupled with a wild 6-5 shoot out victory by Providence over Portland, left the Wolf Pack in third place in the Atlantic Division, four points behind Providence and a point behind Portland. Fourth place Worcester was off on Saturday and remain three points back of Hartford, now with two games in hand.
The Wolf Pack kick off a four-games-in-five-nights stretch on Wednesday when they host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, before facing division opponents Lowell, Portland and Manchester on the weekend.
1. Collins (6) (Labrie, Maxwell) 3:29
2. Bolduc (10) (Heshka, Baumgartner) 13:53 (PP)
3. Weise (6) (Fahey, Rissmiller) 3:58
3. Krog (18) 18:40
3. Desbiens (14) (Grabner, Krog) 19:25 (EN/PP)
(were constantly scrambled, but started as)
Pyatt – Rissmiller – Weise
Avery – Anisimov – Parenteau
Dupont – Moore – Zaborsky
DiDiomete – Ouellette – Sugden
Denisov – Sauer
Potter – Sanguinetti
Nightingale – Fahey
Wiikman / Zaba
1. Karl Goehring
2. Alexandre Bolduc
3. Dale Weise
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