Too Little Comes Too Late as Wolf Pack Falls Behind 3-2 in Series
Friday April 24th 2009, 12:55 am

An almost constant feature in Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander’s Keys to the Game in the closing weeks of the regular season was a plea for his team to limit penalties and play disciplined hockey.  Yet despite his repeated admonitions, his team has continued its parade to the penalty box in the playoffs.  On Thursday night in Hartford, their undisciplined play cost them a hockey game and put them on the brink of elimination, as the Worcester Sharks scored two power play goals as part of a three goal first period outburst and held on to defeat the Wolf Pack 3-1 to take a 3-2 lead in their Atlantic Division Semifinal series.

After a miserable effort in game four of the series in Worcester on Wednesday night, the Pack got off to a good start at home on Thursday, playing a far more assertive game than they had the night before.  Brock McBride put an end to that just over three minutes into the game when he held up Worcester’s Brendan Buckley as the pair chased down the puck on an icing call, and sent the defenseman hurtling into the boards feet-first, causing what appeared to be a serious leg injury.  McBride was fortunate to earn only a two minute interference call on the play, but the early penalty stripped the Wolf Pack of its momentum and put it squarely on the side of the Sharks.

Hartford killed off McBride’s penalty, but 27 seconds after McBride returned, Michael Sauer was whistled for interfering with a Worcester forward as he chased the puck behind the goal line.  It only took veteran defenseman Patrick Traverse, who would finish the game with two goals and an assist, 19 seconds to cash in with a perfect shot to the top corner, stick side on goaltender Matt Zaba’s cage from the top of the left cirlce.

The Sharks doubled the lead 1:19 later off another shot by Traverse, after a huge hit on Sauer resulted in a turnover along the left half boards.  This time, the Montreal native’s shot from the left point was deflected on the way in by T.J. Fox, giving the second year center his second goal in as many games at 7:15.

The Wolf Pack were the beneficiaries of two hooking calls against the Sharks near the midpoint of the period, including 39 seconds of 5-on-3, and while the man advantage allowed them to get finally their first shot on goal at 9:03 of the period, they never really threatened.  The same wouldn’t be true for Worcester, which earned 1:09 of 5-on-3 time of their own thanks to pair of penalties by Corey Potter and Dane Byers starting at 12:49.  The Sharks wasted no time, scoring just ten seconds into the two-man advantage to make it 3-0.  Sauer managed to break up a pass in the high slot, and dove to clear the puck out of the zone, but wasn’t able to get it past Traverse, who skated around the prone defenseman in to the hashmarks, where he fired  a bullet past Zaba and put the Wolf Pack in a hole they’d be unable to dig themselves out of, despite their best efforts.

The home team recovered from their disastrous first period and played the Sharks evenly in the second, countering the visitors’ aggressive forecheck with one of their own, with each team spending extended periods of time in the other’s zone.  After getting outshot 13-4 in the first period, Hartford kept things close in the second, and allowed only a single shot advantage, 10-9.  They were were unable to put rubber past Greiss, however, and entered the final period still down by three.

The final period of the game saw the Pack play what might have been their best twenty minutes of the series.  They dictated the play for long stretches of time and held the Sharks to just three shots in the period, while putting 15 of their own on Greiss.  Their efforts proved to be too little, too late, however, as they were only able to get a single puck past the German-born netminder in the period.

The lone Wolf Pack goal came on the power play at 13:33 of the period, in the waning seconds of a 5-on-4 advantage after failing to convert on an earlier 1:26 of 5-on-3 play.  Potter fed Artem Anisimov in the right corner, and the second-year center fired a quick shot on goal from the sharp angle that appeared to go off a Worcester defenseman and past Greiss, though the goal was credited to Dane Byers, who was jamming the front of the net along with defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti.

That was as close as the Wolf Pack would get. The team now needs to hope they can build off their third period performance and get off to a good start in game six on Saturday in Worcester, where they’ll be facing elimination and the specter of a third early playoff exit in in a row.

Highlights are available from AHL Live.

Notes:

  • After being a combined -10 in Wednesday night’s game the defense pairing of Brian Fahey and Jared Nightingale was a healthy scratch on Thursday.  Vladimir Denisov returned after a five game absence due to injury and Rangers 2008 3rd round draft pick Tomas Kundratek made his professional debut in their place.
  • In an effort to spur his teammates on following the second Worcester goal, Dane Byers fought Frazer McLaren at 7:20 of the first period.  Both players threw a few haymakers, but McLaren was able to knock Byers off balance, sending both players tumbling to the ice.
  • Sanguinetti threw the hit of the game with 6:45 left to play in the second period when he caught Fox with his head down in open ice and leveled the sophomore center with a clean hit.  Fox did not return.
  • The Wolf Pack finished the game 1-for-6 on the power play; the Sharks were 2-for-6.

Scoring:
1. Traverse (1) (Armstrong, DaSilva) 5:56 (PP)
1. Fox (2) (Traverse) 7:15
1. Traverse (2) 13:50 (PP)
3. Byers (2) (Potter, Sanguinetti) 13:33 (PP)*

*The scoring on this goal will be changed, as it was definitely Anisimov who put the original shot on goal, not Potter.

Lines**:
Dupont – Anisimov – Rissmiller
Byers – Ouellette – Owens
Pyatt – Moore – Weise
Bell – Crowder – McBride

Denisov – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Potter – Kundratek

Zaba / Wiikman

** The lines were mixed up following the first period.

Three Stars:
1. Patrick Traverse
2. Thomas Greiss
3. T.J. Fox

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