Artem Anisimov scored the game-tying goal midway through the third and added the deciding tally in the shootout as the Hartford Wolf Pack rallied from a 2-0 first period deficit to defeat the Providence Bruins 3-2 in a shootout and extend their lead over the second place Bruins to two points. In the process, they also secured a playoff berth for the 12th consecutive season — each year since the franchise first took to the ice in the fall of 1997 — the longest active post season streak in the AHL.
Matt Zaba stopped 23 of 25 shots through 65 minutes of play, and blanked all four Providence shooters he faced in the shootout. P.A. Parenteau followed up on Anisimov’s first round shootout score and beat Bruin netminder Tuukka Rask in the fourth round to put the game out of reach for the visitors.
Patrick Rissmiller got the Wolf Pack’s first goal, giving him points in three straight games, and nine of his last eleven.
It didn’t look good for the Pack early, as the Bruins and 23-year old center Vladimir Sobotka caught their hosts napping off the opening face-off and took a 1-0 lead just 22 seconds into the contest. Sobotka carried the puck in on a 2-on-1 with Finnish winger Miiko Lehtonen and opted for the shot, beating Zaba from the right face-off circle.
Providence doubled its lead at 9:30 of the period when rookie Matt Marquardt took a pass down low from Zach Hamill and backhanded it by Zaba for his ninth goal of the season.
The teams were even in shots in the first period at eight apiece, but whatever words of wisdom coach Ken Gernander imparted upon his minions during the first intermission seemed have the desired effect, as they Wolf Pack outshot the Bruins 16-7 and 14-7 in the final two periods of regulation.
Rissmiller cut Providence’s lead in half at 5:48 of the second period when he put the rebound of Bobby Sanguinetti’s shot from the point past Rask for his 11th goal of the season.
Despite their best efforts, the Wolf Pack were unable to beat Rask again until 11:31 into the final frame, on their sixth and final power play of the game. Paul Crowder, playing in his fifth game after finishing his career at the University of Alaska-Anchorage and signing with the Rangers last Friday, made a nice move to cut around a Bruin defender and backhand a feed to Anisimov for a one-timer from the right circle. The assist gave Crowder his first point as a professional, and Anisimov’s 33rd goal of the season moved him in into fourth in the league in goals while knotting the score at two.
With first place on the line, the Pack played more cautiously the rest of the way, looking for at least a point. They got it when the final buzzer sounded to end regulation, and had the edge in the overtime period until Corey Potter slashed the stick out of a Bruin’s hands, earning the 1-minute overtime penalty. With the 4-on-3 advantage, Providence turned the ice into a shooting gallery. But the AHL’s leading scoring defenseman, Johnny Boychuck, missed on three consecutive set-ups at the left point, and Zaba stopped all three Bruin shots that did find their way to his net in the extra session to send the game to a shootout.
Anisimov scored on the first shot of the skills competition, using a modified version of his usual forehand-backhand deke to put the puck between Rask’s legs rather than top shelf. After Rask stopped attempts by Crowder and Rissmiller, Parenteau scored on a wrist shot from the high slot. Zaba then stopped the fourth and final shootout attempt he faced to give the Pack the win and a guaranteed visit to the Calder Cup playoffs.
- Former Rangers head coach Tom Renney was in attendance, fueling speculation that his time with the Rangers organization is not finished.
- Goaltender Miika Wiikman returned to the line-up after suffering a lower body injury last weekend. He served as backup to Zaba, allowing Maxime Daigneault to be returned to Charlotte.
- Anisimov has goals (5) in four straight games after going four straight without a point, his longest dry spell of the season. His 16th power play goal of the season ties him for fifth in the league.
- Potter’s season of ill-advised and poorly-timed penalties continues. The defenseman has 82 penalty minutes in 62 games, all minors except for a single 10-minute misconduct. His penalties have put his team down by two men eight times, and canceled out Wolf Pack power plays three times.
1. Sobotka (16) (Lehtonen, Boychuk) 0:22
1. Marquardt (9) (Hamill, Lukacevic) 9:30
2. Rissmiller (11) (Sanguinetti, Potter) 5:48
3. Anisimov (33) (Crowder, Dupont) 11:31 (PP)
Bell – Rissmiller – Parenteau
Pyatt – Crowder* – Owens
Dupont – Ouellette* – Anisimov
DiDiomete – McBride – Sugden
Potter – Sanguinetti
Nightingale – Fahey
Denisov – Urquhardt
Zaba / Daigneault
* Crowder and Ouellette swapped places after the first period.
1. Artem Anisimov
2. Tuukka Rask
3. Patrick Rissmiller
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