As the New York Rangers battled the Buffalo Sabres (or not) in western New York on Saturday night, the Hartford Wolf Pack hosted the Sabres’ top farm club, the Portland Pirates, in Hartford, with far different results. The Rangers junior squad dominated the baby Sabres, outshooting the visitors 45-18, but needed overtime to put the game away thanks to the spectacular goaltending of rookie Jhonas Enroth, who stopped 43 of 45 Hartford shots in the loss. Stay-at-home defenseman Michael Sauer got the game-winner when he jumped on Sean Avery’s rebound at 2:20 of the extra frame to earn Hartford the 2-1 triumph.
The overtime victory leaves the two teams tied for second place in the Atlantic Division with 63 points after 57 games played, with the Wolf Pack technically in the lead thanks to an extra win. The Providence Bruins remain in first in the division, four points ahead with 67.
The Wolf Pack jumped on the Pirates early in a first period which saw them outshoot the visitors by a decisive 15-3 margin. New Jersey native Bobby Sanguinetti struck on the Pack’s first power play, just 3:03 into the game. P.A. Parenteau, in his usual position at the left half boards, took a pass from Brodie Dupont and fed Sanguinetti for a slap shot from the left point which made its way through a tangle of bodies to beat Enroth up high.
Seconds after Enroth made a flurry of good saves on rookie Tomas Zaborsky just past the four minute mark, Devin DiDiomete added to his Ryan Hollweg-esque resume by taking a five minute boarding penalty and game misconduct when he pasted Portland blueliner Kenny MacAulay from behind in the right corner, knocking the University of Vermont graduate from the game. The Pack PK was outstanding, not only killing off the full five minutes with ease, but outshooting the Pirate power play 2-1 in the process. It was Enroth who made the toughest save of the man advantage, stopping Artem Anismov as he rushed up the right wing boards and cut in on the Swedish netminder shorthanded at 14:49.
Despite once again being badly outshot in the second frame (15-8) the visitors managed to knot the game at one just past the midpoint of the period, with the teams playing four aside. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani beat Matt Zaba, who made 18 saves in his third consecutive start, through a screen with a slap shot from the center of the blueline at 10:13 for his sixth goal of the season.
The third period was scoreless, with the Wolf Pack once again taking a decisive lead in shots, 13-6. Zaba made his save of the game just inside the five minute mark of the period when he stopped Aaron Slattengren on a 3-on-2. At the opposite end of the rink, Enroth continued his own remarkable play, preserving the tie with 4:02 to go when he stopped Brodie Dupont as he broke in alone off the right wing.
As the buzzer sounded to mark the end of the period, Gragnani tripped Patrick Rissmiller as the veteran forward carried the puck into the Pirate zone, setting up a one minute overtime power play for the Pack. The Pack power play came up short, as it had on eight prior opportunities in the game after scoring on its initial try. That didn’t matter, however, as Sauer became the game’s unexpected hero at the 2:20 mark. Rissmiller started the play when his blind behind-the-back pass from behind the goal line found Avery in the left slot. Enroth made his 43rd save of the night on Avery’s wrist shot, but kicked the rebound out to the right side, unaware that Sauer had jumped in from the point looking for the backdoor play. With his side of the net wide open, the second year pro had no trouble burying the puck before Enroth could recover, earning the Pack the much-deserved win.
1. Sanguinetti (5) (Parenteau, Dupont) 3:03 (PP)
2. Gragnani (6) (Kostka, Slattengren) 10:13
OT. Sauer (3) (Avery, Rissmiller) 2:20
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Rissmiller – Avery – Weise
Pyatt – Ouellette – Zaborsky
DiDiomete – Moore – Ford
Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Nightingale – Fahey
Zaba / Wiikman
1. Michael Sauer
2. Jhonas Enroth
3. Greg Moore
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