The Hartford Wolf Pack returned to their winning ways on Saturday with a 4-2 victory over the Springfield Falcons in Springfield, taking sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division in the process. Captain Greg Moore scored his league-leading fifth shorthanded goal of the year, Artem Anisimov scored his team-leading 27th goal and 7th game-winner, and newcomer Mark Bell added an empty net goal and an assist to give him four points in three games with the Pack. Rookie Dale Weise also added a goal, and Matt Zaba made it ten starts in a row and stopped 19 of 21 shots to improve his record in that span to 8-1-1-0.
The Pack dominated the Atlantic Division’s cellar dwellers in the first period, outshooting the Falcons 12-5. They managed only one goal, however, on a weak wrist shot from the right wing boards by Weise that Falcons goaltender Devan Dubnyk somehow missed, allowing the disk to sneak between his pads.
Moore added to the lead at 2:11 of the second period with his league-best 5th shorthanded tally. Veteran forward Patrick Rissmiller carried the puck down the right side on a 2-on-1, holding it down low until Dubnyk committed and then threading a pass through Falcon defender Theo Peckham to Moore in the left cirlce. The Wolf Pack’s captain snapped the puck into the open side of the net for his 19th of the season, good for third on the team. It was Hartford’s 12th shorthander of the campaign, and their third against Springfield.
The Falcons needed just 3:35 to cut the Pack’s lead in half. Springfield rookie Geoff Paukovich collected the puck behind the goal line and wrapped it around the right post, somehow finding a gap between Zaba and the iron for his fifth of the season at 5:46.
Anisimov added what would eventually be the game-winner at 14:03 of the period. After winning a faceoff and controlling the puck in the Springfield zone, the rangy Russian was tripped up and lost the puck, but defenseman Michael Sauer squeezed off the Springfield clearing pass at the right point and fired a low shot on net. Sauer’s shot was blocked in front, but Anisimov found the rebound at the top of the slot and snapped it past Dubnyk for his 27th of the season. It was third game winner of the season against Springfield for Anisimov, who had two overtime tallies in Springfield earlier in the season.
The Pack built upon their shots lead in the second, out-firing Springfield by a 12-9 margin. Springfield benefited from a pair of second-half power plays, but Zaba and the Pack PK shut the door.
Their luck would run out early in the third. With Sauer in the box for elbowing, Zaba stopped a pair of point-blank shots at approximately 2:45 of the frame. A minute later Springfield broke through when Taylor Chorney let loose a slap shot from the left point which found its way through Ryan Potulny’s screen to beat Zaba on the glove side.
The Falcons applied their best pressure of the game in the third, outshooting the Pack 7-6. Zaba once again came up big, making a flashy glove save on Cody Wild at 10:37. Charles Linglet had the Falcon’s best opportunity after he split the Pack defense to go in alone on Zaba, but the veteran from Montreal fired the puck over Zaba’s cage.
Dubnyk was called to the bench for the extra attacker with just over a minute remaining in regulation. It was a decision that proved costly when Bell dumped the puck into the Springfield zone, only to have to have it deflect off Falcon winger Viacheslav Trukhno and into the empty net, sealing the victory for the Pack and extending their undefeated-in-regulation streak to nine games.
The win, coupled with a 2-0 shut out loss by Providence in Manitoba allowed the Pack to take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division with 76 points, a feat that seemed impossible after their incredibly average start. Portland were also losers on the night, falling 2-1 to the Monarchs, who extended their winning streak to five and moved into third place, a point ahead of the Pirates at 70. Portland dropped to third with 67 points, with the Sharks two points behind in fifth and the Devils three points behind them with 64.
Hartford play their third consecutive road game and fourth game in five days tomorrow when they travel to Bridgeport to face the Sound Tigers, who are just two points off of Hershey for the Eastern Conference lead.
- Defenseman Corey Potter and forward Tomas Zaborsky remained out with undisclosed injuries.
- In the absence of Potter, Tommy Pyatt saw time on the point on the power play.
- Anisimov’s 27 goals rank sixth in the AHL, while his 7 game winners are just one back of league-leader Ryan Vesce.
- P.A Parenteau (26g, 41a) has points (3) in only one of his last five games, but remains one point ahead of Anisimov (27g, 39a) for the team points lead. The two rank third and fifth respectively in AHL scoring.
- Sauer was a +3 on the night, to bring his team-leading plus/minus figure to +18, tying him for 15th in the league. That’s quite a reversal for the second year pro, who was the only regular to record a minus rating (-2) for the Pack last season.
- The Pack are 10-2-1-0 in their last 13 road games to improve their record away from the XL Center to 15-11-3-1.
- Goaltender Miika Wiikman is expected to get his first start since Valentine’s Day in Bridgeport tomorrow.
1. Weise (7) (Urquhart, Bell) 4:32
2. Moore (19) (Rissmiller) 2:11 (SH)
2. Paukovich (5) (McDonald, Lefebvre) 5:46
2. Anisimov (27) (Sauer) 14:03
3. Chorney (5) (Schremp, Linglet) 3:48 (PP)
3. Bell (14) (Sanguinetti) 19:01 (EN)
Dupont – Anisimov – Parenteau
Bell – Rissmiller – Moore
Pyatt – Ouellette – Owens
DiDiomete – Sugden – Weise
Denisov – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Nightingale – Fahey
Zaba / Wiikman
1. Artem Anisimov
2. Geoff Paukovich
3. Michael Sauer
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