The Hartford Wolf Pack’s bus traveled to Worcester, M.A. on Wednesday afternoon for game four of the team’s Atlantic Division Semifinal playoff series against the Worcester Sharks. Unfortunately, the team forgot to get on before it left the Connecticut capital. At least that’s the best explanation that can be offered for the Wolf Pack’s embarrassing 6-0 shutout defeat at the hands of the baby Sharks at the DCU Center on Wednesday night.
Despite the flattering 30-27 shot advantage for the Wolf Pack — a first in the series — the Pack was soundly out-competed throughout the game, even during a second period in which they outshot their hosts 12-6, while never getting more than a few quality scoring chances. Still unable to come up with a counter to Worcester’s aggressive forecheck after three full games, the Pack’s passing was rushed and sloppy, resulting in frequent turnovers. Their battle level was well below that of their opponent; while the Sharks were blocking shots and diving to poke pucks away from danger, the Wolf Pack were waving their sticks harmlessly and ineffectively. Yet despite being outplayed, the visitors managed to sneak into the third period down by just a single goal.
That wouldn’t last long.
Logan Couture got the Worcester party started when he scored his first professional goal and the first of four Sharks goals in a span of 5:58 at 1:23 of the period. On a waved off icing call, Tom Cavanagh pressured defenseman Brian Fahey along the end boards, springing the puck to Riley Armstrong behind the net. Armstrong centered the puck to a wide open Couture in the slot for a quick one-timer which Wolf Pack netminder Matt Zaba was helpless to stop.
Lukas Kaspar gave the Sharks the 3-0 lead 2:22 later when he battled his way off the side boards and past Fahey to skate in on the Hartford net from the right side. Jared Nightingale missed on a lazy stick check, allowing the skilled Czech winger to put a shot over Zaba’s shoulder for his first of the playoffs at 3:45.
Monday’s double overtime hero Ryan Vesce made it 4-0 at 6:16. Bobby Sanguinetti’s stick check on Kaspar missed its mark, allowing a pass to get through to the Sharks captain on the left doorstep for the easy tap-in into the open side of the net.
Cavanagh earned Worcester’s fourth goal on its fifth shot of the period at 7:21. Brendan Buckley spun off Nightingale behind the net, wrapped around the far side of the cage and fed Cavanagh, who was unguarded in the slot, for the bang-bang goal to make it 5-0.
Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander called his timeout after the fifth goal, and while the break stemmed the tide, the damage was already done. The Wolf Pack held the Sharks off the board until the final minute of the period, when T.J. Fox took a drop pass on a 3-on-2 and was allowed to walk into the hashmarks unencumbered and fire a shot past Zaba to finalize the scoring at 19:13.
Kyle McLaren had scored the first goal of the game only 3:19 into the first period after the Sharks won an offensive zone draw, leading to the vereran NHL defenseman’s shot from the blueline that beat Zaba through a screen.
The Pack netminder, who stopped only 21 of 27 shots — but can’t really be faulted for any of the goals he allowed — remained in the net for the entire sixty minutes, suggesting that Miika Wiikman may get the call when the series returns to Hartford for game five on Thursday. The winner of Thursday’s game will take a 3-2 lead in the series and get their first crack at clinching a second round berth Saturday in Worcester.
Video highlights lowlights are available from AHL Live.
- Nightingale and Fahey we each a -5 on the night, yet continued to be rolled out as a pairing almost every third shift. With all the spare defenseman currently in Hartford, replacing Nightingale in particular seems like a no-brainer at this point.
- A particularly tantalizing option on defense could be available soon, as Michael Del Zotto’s London Knights were eliminated from the OHL playoffs on Wednesday night.
- One defensman who is not available is Vladimir Denisov, who missed his fifth straight game with an upper body injury.
- Perhaps the lone positive to take from the game is that the Pack finally reduced their penalty count, earning only 1 non-coincidental minor from referee Chris Brown. Of course, Worcester was only whistled three times, suggesting Brown simply called a good game, unlike some of his brothers in stripes earlier in the series.
- Upset with a late hit, Brodie Dupont dropped the gloves with Andrew Desjardins in the third period. The scrum came at the end of a long shift for the Rangers 2005 third round draft pick and he seemed a somewhat reluctant combatant at first, trying to wrestle Desjardins to the ice before finally throwing (and landing) a few punches and getting the upper hand in the fight.
- P.A. Parenteau remained sidelined as he continues to be dogged by post-concussion symptoms. The AHL First Team All-Star is officially “day-to-day”, and according to Pack broadcaster Bob Crawford could return to the line-up for Saturday’s game six in Worcester.
- Mark Bell was a last minute scratch after it was determined he couldn’t go after getting “banged up” in Monday night’s double overtime game. Devin DiDiomete returned to the line-up in his absence.
- Paul Crowder returned to the line-up after a one game absence in place of tough guy Brandon Sugden.
1. McLaren (1) (Desjardins, DaSilva) 3:19
3. Couture (1) (Armstrong) 1:23
3. Kaspar (1) (Desjardins, DaSilva) 3:45
3. Vesce (3) (Larose, Kaspar) 6:16
3. Cavanagh (2) (Buckley, Armstrong) 7:21
3. Fox (1) (Vesce, Staubitz) 19:13
Pyatt – Rissmiller – McBride
Dupont – Anisimov – Weise
Byers – Ouellette – Owens
DiDiomete – Moore – Crowder
Potter – Sanguinetti
Urquhart – Sauer
Nightingale – Fahey
Zaba / Wiikman
1. Thomas Greiss
2. Dan DaSilva
3. Lukas Kaspar
- Sharks’ Big Third Period Ties Series (Hartford Wolf Pack)
- Wolf Pack Lose; Series Tied (Hartford Courant)
- Sharks shutout the Pack 6-0 in Game 4 to tie series 2-2 (Worcester Sharks)
- Sharks take a big bite, even series (Telegram & Gazette)
- Fox caps off a first night for goals (Telegram & Gazette)
- Pack Take Night Off… Sharks Don’t (Howlings)
- WorSharks, Greiss Shutout Hartford 6-0; Draw Even In Series (Sharkspage)
- Sharks cruise to 6-0 victory, knot series at 2-2 (The AHL)
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