The Hartford Wolf Pack rode their special teams and yet another outstanding performance by goaltender Matt Zaba to a season-high fourth straight victory on Wednesday night, defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-1. Greg Moore scored twice, Patrick Rissmiller added a goal and an assist, and Corey Potter and Bobby Sanguinetti had two assists each, while Sean Avery tallied his first goal since joining the Pack six games ago. But it was Zaba who made the trip to Pennsylvania a success by stopping 39 of 40 shots he faced in his fifth consecutive start.
It was the Penguins who took the early lead, scoring on the first nine power plays the Hartford would offer them, 5:57 into the opening frame. Defenseman Alex Goligoski scored his second in seven games since being sent down by the parent Penguins when he snuck in from the left point to hammer in a pass from former Ranger and Wolf Pack forward Jeff Taffe on a perfectly-timed back-door play.
The Pens were dominant in the first period, putting 10 shots on Zaba’s goal before the Wolf Pack had even tested Penguins’ goaltender John Curry 3 times. They finished the period with a 16-6 shot advantage, but the Pack would tie the score with 3:03 remaining. Avery, who played one of his better games since his debut two weeks ago, and who was routinely greeted by boos from the local fans when he took the ice, fought through a check along the left wing boards and blistered a slap shot past Curry from the left faceoff dot.
Jordan Owens extended the Wolf Pack lead to two goals early in the second when a picked up the puck at the hashmarks after Mike Ouellette fanned on his attempt, and snapped it past Curry at 1:44. It was Owens’ first game back after missing the last eight with an abductor muscle injury.
The second period was a far more even affair, with Hartford putting 14 shots on Curry while Zaba faced 13.
The Wolf Pack broke the game open in the third with three special teams goals. The first came on the penalty kill, just 1:24 into the period when Moore finished a 2-on-1 rush with Artem Anisimov by wristing the puck over Curry’s glove. Moore’s 17th of the season came on the Wolf Pack’s first shot of the period.
The hosts once again held a strong territorial advantage in the final period. The Wolf Pack wouldn’t register another shot until 10:53, when Rissmiller scored the Wolf Pack’s second shorthander after intercepting Danny Richmond’s drop pass to Goligosk in the Penguin zone and skating in alone on Curry to beat the Boston University graduate high on the glove side.
Moore added his 18th of the season and second of the game just under three minutes later, on the power play, when he deflected Potter’s shot from the left point, giving the visitors the final 5-1 margin of victory at 13:36. The Pack finished with just five shots in the final period, while the Penguins added 11, for a final Penguin advantage of 40-25.
The win leaves the Pack just three points behind first place Providence in the Atlantic Division, and three ahead of Portland. They return home on Friday to face sixth place Manchester on Friday and hit the road to battle Portland Saturday night.
1. Goligoski (2) (Taffe, Caputi) 5:57 (PP)
1. Avery (1) (Sanguinetti, Potter) 16:57
2. Owens (10) (Ouellette, Pyatt) 1:44
3. Moore (17) (Anisimov, Sanguinetti) 1:24 (SH)
3. Rissmiller (8) 10:53 (SH)
3. Moore (18) (Potter, Rissmiller) 13:36 (PP)
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Rissmiller – Avery – Weise
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
DiDiomete – Moore – Sugden
Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Denisov – Fahey
Zaba / Daigneault
1. Matt Zaba
2. Sean Avery
3. Greg Moore
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