Grachev leads Wolf Pack over Sound Tigers
Sunday January 03rd 2010, 1:12 am

Evgeny Grachev scored his second goal of the game at the 15-minute mark of the third period to break a 2-2 tie and give the Wolf Pack a 3-2 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Sunday night.  The victory marked the first time all season that the Wolf Pack was able to post a victory after entering the third period trailing on the scoreboard, and moved the club into fourth place in the Atlantic Division with an 18-13-1-4 record for 41 points.

With the World Junior Championship Quarterfinals overlapping the Wolf Pack game tonight, I was only able to watch the Pack game with one eye.  What I can say from what I did see of the game is that this was easily Grachev’s best game in about two months.  His first goal was a nice redirection on the power play, while the second, game-winning goal came off a great individual effort after he controlled the puck along the boards behind the net, circled out to the right faceoff dot and beat goaltender Scott Munroe through the five hole with a no-look wrist shot.  More importantly, he was far more engaged in all areas of the ice than he has been in recent memory.  Hopefully the new year has signaled a new beginning for the young rookie and this kind of performance will become the rule, rather than the exception.

Dale Weise tied the game for the Pack at 10:55 of the third after he found the puck during a goal mouth scramble and slid it over the goal line with Munro down and out.  Weise also added an assist on Grachev’s first goal.  All-in-all it was a great game for the Pack’s second line of Grachev, Brodie Dupont and Weise, which scored all three of the Packs goals and combined for five points in the game.

Chad Johnson was returned to Hartford Friday afternoon and found himself back in the Hartford net on Saturday for the first time since December 13th.  Johnson was solid, stopping 23 of 25 shots and earning his eleventh win of the season.

I didn’t see enough to try to write a full recap, so here’s Brian Ring’s story via the Wolf Pack:

Hartford Wolf Pack 3, Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2

By Brian Ring

Hartford, CT, January 2, 2010 – The Hartford Wolf Pack used a pair of third-period goals to come from behind and defeat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 3-2, Saturday night in front of 4,718 at the XL Center.

Hartford’s Evgeny Grachev scored twice, including the game-winner, and Dale Weise scored and added an assist to lead the Wolf Pack, who won for the first time this season after trailing after two periods of play.

“I just shot it,” said Grachev of his second goal.  “Usually when you look for something you never score.”

Goaltender Chad Johnson posted 23 saves in his first appearance for the Wolf Pack since making his NHL debut for the New York Rangers Wednesday versus Philadelphia.

The Wolf Pack took the first lead of the game less than five minutes into the first period, as Grachev beat Sound Tigers goaltender Scott Munroe (24 saves) during their first power-play of the game at 4:57.

Weise passed to Nigel Williams at the right point, and Williams then fired a perfect pass that was deflected past Munroe by Grachev, for his first goal of the night and the 1-0 advantage.

The Wolf Pack had chances to extend the lead later in the frame, but Ilkka Heikkinen and Bobby Sanguinetti both found posts during a four-on-three power-play opportunity, and Brodie Dupont tipped a shot just wide of the net.

The Sound Tigers quickly tied the score in the second period, as Jesse Joensuu wheeled behind the Wolf Pack net and centered a pass on the backhand for Trevor Smith, who earned his eleventh goal by beating Johnson.

Mark Flood then gave Bridgeport the lead, as the Sound Tigers capitalized on a five-on-three man advantage.  With P.A. Parenteau and Corey Potter in the penalty box, Mark Katic connected with Flood for the second Sound Tigers goal at the seven-minute mark.

Munroe played a solid second period, making nine saves on the Wolf Pack to maintain Bridgeport’s lead, including stops on quality chances by Derek Couture and Andres Ambühl.

Hartford managed to tie the score at two apiece, however, midway through the third, as Weise scored from his knees on a backhanded, no-look shot in front of Munroe.  A chance from the point by Michael Sauer could not be cleared by Katic, leading to Weise’s goal at 10:55.

“They tried to clear it, but the puck was just sitting there,” said Weise.  “I tried to get as much on it as I could and the net was empty.”

Grachev came up with the game winning goal at the 15-minute mark, digging for the puck and then skating through the circle to Munroe’s left before putting a shot between his legs for the 4-3 lead.  Heikkinen and Sanguinetti both assisted on the goal, which gave the Wolf Pack their third straight victory.

“We just went back to working hard, putting in pucks,” said Weise.  “We got some good bounces.”

The win raised the Wolf Pack’s record to 18-13-1-4 for 41 points, and lifted them into a tie for fourth place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with Bridgeport.

Hartford will complete a three-game homestand Sunday afternoon (3:00), as they host the Syracuse Crunch at XL Center.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2 At Hartford Wolf Pack 3
Jan 2, 2010 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Bridgeport 0 2 0 – 2
Hartford 1 0 2 – 3

1st Period-1, Hartford, Grachev 8 (Williams, Weise), 4:57 (pp). Penalties-Morency Bri (slashing), 0:00; Weise Hfd (cross-checking), 0:00; Moore Bri (hooking), 3:30; Morency Bri (fighting), 6:09; Nightingale Hfd (fighting), 6:09; Grachev Hfd (tripping), 7:11; Morency Bri (fighting), 15:23; Nightingale Hfd (fighting), 15:23; Haley Bri (slashing), 15:28; Parenteau Hfd (tripping), 15:28; Joensuu Bri (cross-checking), 16:15; Bentivoglio Bri (roughing), 18:38; Moore Bri (roughing), 18:38; Westgarth Bri (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:38; Parenteau Hfd (roughing), 18:38; Potter Hfd (roughing), 18:38.

2nd Period-2, Bridgeport, Smith 11 (Joensuu, Mauldin), 1:33. 3, Bridgeport, Flood 3 (Katic, Moore), 7:00 (pp). Penalties-Parenteau Hfd (hooking), 6:04; Potter Hfd (double minor – high-sticking), 6:48.

3rd Period-4, Hartford, Weise 10 (Dupont, Sauer), 10:55. 5, Hartford, Grachev 9 (Heikkinen, Sanguinetti), 15:00. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 10-13-2-25. Hartford 10-9-8-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 1 of 4; Hartford 1 of 2.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Munroe 10-8-1 (27 shots-24 saves). Hartford, Johnson 11-7-2 (25 shots-23 saves).
Referees-Shaun Davis (31).
Linesmen-Brent Colby (7), Paul Simeon (66).

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