A poor effort yielded poor results for the Hartford Wolf Pack Friday night, culminating in a 6-3 loss to the Portland Pirates in Portland.
Buffalo Sabres first round pick Tyler Ennis scored the first three goals of his professional career — and added an assist — and Nathan Gerbe picked up a goal and three assists for the Pirates, while Bobby Sanguinetti got his first goal of the season and added a helper to lead the Pack. Paul Crowder also scored in the third period, and Andres Ambuhl added his first North American pro goal late in the game, but it was too little, too late for the Wolf Pack, which had spotted their hosts a 4-0 lead through two periods.
Portland took the lead at 3:56 of the first frame and never looked back. Ennis accepted a pretty cross-slot feed from Gerbe and tucked it behind Wolf Pack starting goaltender Chad Johnson for his first of the night.
After stopping nine of ten shots in the opening session, Johnson surrendered three goals on just six shots in the second.
The first came off the opening faceoff at center ice. Ennis controlled the puck and skated in on a 2-on-1 with Gerbe, who converted on the rookie’s feed to make it 2-0 just ten seconds in.
Three consecutive Wolf Pack penalties — the final one resulting in 1:26 of 5-on-3 time for the home side — resulted in a three goal Pack deficit at 5:31. Gerbe’s shot from the right circle clanged off the cross bar behind Johnson and dropped into the crease, where Jeff Cowan was waiting to sweep it over the goal line for the 3-0 Pirate lead.
Another penalty at 14:07 of the period gave the Portland power play their second of three man-advantage goals in the game. Ennis picked up his second of the game when he tucked the rebound of Gerbe’s shot behind Johnson from the right post.
Crowder got the Wolf Pack on the board at 2:41 of the final period with a flukey shot from the left wing boards that deflected off a Pirate skate in front and snuck past netminder Jonas Enroth to make it 4-1.
Two keys to a successful penalty kill are hard work and good goaltending, and the Wolf Pack have gotten neither with any consistency so far this season. And so with Justin Soryal in the box for roughing, Ennis completed his hat trick and earned Portland’s third power play goal by putting home the rebound of T.J. Brennan’s point shot at 5:43. Friday’s 2-for-5 performance dropped the Pack’s penalty kill to 64.5% on the season, landing it squarely in the AHL’s basement.
Portland had started the game at 1-for-25 on the power play for the season, placing them 27th in the league at 4%. They finished the game at 12.9%, leapfrogging into 19th place thanks to the Pack’s PK ineptitude.
Sanguintti got his first goal of the season at 9:09, taking a feed from Dale Weise and wristing a shot through a crowd in front to beat Enroth and draw the Pack back within three. But Cowen gave Portland back the four goal lead with a strong individual effort, stealing the puck off P.A. Parenteau — who was held scoreless for the first time this season — deep in the Pack zone and beating Johnson nice backhand move at 15:23.
The Pack completed the scoring with 1:57 remaining in the game. Evgeny Grachev picked up a point in his fourth straight game by winning the puck along the right half boards and feeding Sanguinetti at the left point. Sanguinetti wristed a shot on goal which Ambuhl deflected past Enroth to earn his first professional goal in North America.
The loss dropped the Wolf Pack to 2-3 on the season and 1-3 on the road. They head to Springfield on Saturday night hoping to reprise last week’s domination of the Falcons at 7pm.
Video highlights are available at AHL Live.
- Springfield’s Liam Reddox received a one game suspension for his concussion-causing elbow to goaltender Matt Zaba’s head. He’ll be back in the Falcon line-up for Saturday’s game. Zaba remains sidelined indefinitely.
- Center Tomas Zaborsky picked up a goal, assist and hooking penalty in his debut for Porin Ã„ssÃ¤t of the Finnish SM-liga. Zaborsky, who arrived in Finland on Thursday, started his Finnish career on Ã„ssÃ¤t’s fourth line.
- I’ll be writing a weekly Wolf Pack recap for SNY’s Rangers Blog this season. My first column appeared earlier this week — you can find it here.
- For minor mid-week Wolf Pack updates, news from Russia, and relevant Rangers links, be sure to follow @byndblueshirts on Twitter.
1. POR Ennis, (1) (Gerbe, Kostka), 3:56
2. POR Gerbe, (3) (Ennis, Cowan), 0:10
2. POR Cowan, (1) (Gerbe, Mancari), 5:31 (PP)
2. POR Ennis, (2) (Gerbe, Brennan), 14:48 (PP)
3. HFD Crowder, (2) , 2:41
3. POR Ennis, (3) (Brennan, Gragnani), 5:43 (PP)
3. HFD Sanguinetti, (1) (Weise, Arnason), 9:09
3. POR Cowan, (2) , 15:23
3. HFD Ambuhl, (1) (Sanguinetti, Grachev), 18:03
Grachev – Crowder – Parenteau
Dupont – Locke – Weise
Byers – Rissmiller – Owens
Soryal – Arnason – Ambuhl
Heikkinen – Sanguinetti
Potter – Williams
Henley – Sauer
Johnson / Wiikman
1. Tyler Ennis
2. Nathan Gerbe
3. Jeff Cowan
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