HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack had a shot at their first three-game winning streak in nearly three months and a share of the Atlantic Division lead for the first time this season Saturday night.
But the depleted but quicker and more physical Providence Bruins wouldn’t allow the Wolf Pack close to any of those goals.
The Bruins took advantage of numerous Wolf Pack turnovers and a rare poor game by goalie Miika Wiikman to score a 5-2 victory and end a three-game losing streak before 5,835 at the XL Center.
Providence (24-17-2-1) was without injured Peter Schaefer, along with Boston Bruins call-ups Martin St. Pierre, Vladimir Sobotka, Byron Bitz and defenseman Matt Lashoff. But the Bruins got strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask (39 saves) and scored a shorthanded goal and two off giveaways in the first period on the way to opening a four-point lead over the Wolf Pack (21-17-2-3) and Portland, which lost 3-2 to Manchester. The Pirates host the Wolf Pack Monday at 1 p.m.
“Playing for a share of first against the team you’re battling against is an excellent way to evaluate your game as an individual and as a team,” Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander said. “They’re an offensive team that creates chances on their own, so going in we said it’s going to be a battle and you can’t turn pucks over and give them opportunities. You have to protect the puck, and if there are no plays available you have to put it in the safe areas. You can’t put it in the middle of the ice and let them counter.
“And Rask played one of the best games I’ve seen him play against us. He was very good.”
Defenseman Brian Fahey, who had two turnovers that led to goals, said the Wolf Pack might have been overexuberant about what was on the line.
“We’ve been successful the last few games keeping it simple, doing the little things right, but we got away from that,” Fahey said. “I think we got a little overexcited by the fact we had a chance to slip into first place, and what we have to realize is that we have to keep it simple in order to get there.
“I tried to do too much on the third goal (by Matt Marquardt). They’re a good team and are going to capitalize on that. I know better, and there were some other guys who did the same thing and know better, too. It’s a mistake that can’t happen, and we let it because we were trying to do too much.”
The Wolf Pack, whose only three-game winning streak this season was Oct. 24, 25 and 29, were especially generous in the first period while falling behind 3-1. First, Wacey Rabbit flipped a clearing pass to Jeremy Reich, who got behind Fahey and Urquhart for a shorthanded breakaway and put a backhander past Wiikman at 4:13.
The Wolf Pack tied it when P.A. Parenteau stole a pass in the neutral zone, broke in 3-on-1 and made a backhand pass to Artem Anisimov for a one-timer from the right circle at 8:06. It extended Parenteau’s point streak to seven games.
But Wolf Pack turnovers led to two Bruins goals in 1:22. Corey Potter’s clearing attempt deflected off Aaron Clarke’s skate to Zach Hamill, whose shot from the left circle went off Wiikman’s glove and trickled into the net at 10:47. Moments later, Marquardt intercepted Fahey’s clearing pass and beat Wiikman high to the glove side at 12:09.
The Wolf Pack nearly got to 3-2 on their third power play, but Rask made a sprawling save on Anisimov’s rebound with 3:37 left in the period.
The Bruins made it 4-1 at 6:01 of the second period as Ned Lukacevic took a pass from Rabbit and scored on a wraparound that sent Wiikman to the bench in favor of Matt Zaba after allowing four goals on 13 shots.
Rask robbed Anisimov at 11:40, then Zaba (18 saves) made a stellar stop on Martin Karsums’ rebound with 45 seconds left in the period to keep the Wolf Pack’s slim hopes alive.
But Rask denied Parenteau cruising in alone 5:20 into the third period and then made bang-bang saves off Dale Weise and Greg Moore at 10:40.
Parenteau got the Wolf Pack to 4-2 on a power play at 10:24 when he took a pass from Bobby Sanguinetti and scored from the left point after Anisimov won a faceoff. But the Bruins appropriately capped the scoring when Reich converted another Fahey turnover into an empty-net goal with 1:16 left. … An auction of special Wolf Pack jerseys raised $11,410 for the March of Dimes. The high bid was $2,000 for Zaba’s jersey. That was twice as much as for the No. 2 earner, Parenteau. The players presented the jerseys to the high bidders on the ice after the game.
Providence 3 1 1 — 5
Hartford 1 0 1 — 2
First period: 1. Pro, Reich 13 (Rabbit), 4:13, sh; 2. Hfd, Anisimov 19 (Parenteau), 8:06; 3. Pro, Hamill 5 (Clarke), 10:47; 4. Pro, Marquardt 6, 12:09; Penalties: Boychuk, Pro (slashing), 2:26; Sauer, Hfd (roughing), 5:25; Rabbit, Pro (roughing, roughing), 12:49; Sanguinetti, Hfd (roughing), 12:49; Potter, Hfd (tripping), 14:12; Marchand, Pro (interference), 14:59; Boychuk, Pro (roughing), 16:53; Parenteau, Hfd (roughing), 16:53.
Second period: 5. Pro, Lukacevic 2 (Rabbit), 6:01; Penalties: Marchand, Pro (holding the stick), 2:52; Soryal, Hfd (cross-checking), 6:40; May, Pro (fighting), 13:52; Soryal, Hfd (fighting), 13:52; Marquardt, Pro (fighting), 19:31; Nightingale, Hfd (fighting), 19:31.
Third period: 6. Hfd, Parenteau 18 (Sanguinetti, Anisimov), 10:24,, pp; 7. Pro, Reich 14, 18:44, en; Penalties: Knackstedt, Pro (fighting), 3:15; DiDiomete, Hfd (fighting), 3:15; Reich, Pro (fighting), 7:55; Stefanishion, Hfd (fighting), 7:55; Bodnarchuk, Pro (boarding), 10:17; Potter, Hfd (interference), 15:37.
Shots on goal: Providence 11-12-9_32, Hartford 13-13-15_41; Power-play opportunities: Providence 0-for-4, Hartford 1-for-5; Goalies: Providence, Rask 18-13-2-0 (41 shots-39 saves), Hartford, Wiikman 15-12-2-3 (13-9), Zaba (18-18); Referee: Chris Cozzan; Linesmen: Brent Colby, Luke Galvin; A: 5,835.