HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack went into the AHL All-Star break in grand style Saturday night.
All-Star Artem Anisimov, Mike Ouellette and Greg Moore scored in the third period as Miikka Wiikman stopped all 14 shots he faced in the Wolf Pack’s 4-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before 7,017, the second largest crowd of the season at the XL Center.
After blowing a second chance to tie for the Atlantic Division lead with a 3-2 loss to Lowell Friday night, the Wolf Pack (23-18-2-3) battled throughout against the Penguins, who had won three in a row to move into second place in the East Division.
“It was a little more fast-paced than the Lowell game,” said Wolf Pack left wing Brodie Dupont, who assisted on the Wolf Pack’s first two goals. “It’s tough playing teams that sit back. I’d rather play a team that’s in your face. It gets me into the game, too.
“We’d been playing for first place for a few games, and we haven’t been able to capitalize. But everyone stepped up tonight and played a good team game. We did all the little things we had to and were finally able to put the nail in the coffin in the third. After the second goal, we kept building off that, and it’s real important that once you get the momentum, you keep coming.”
Anisimov, named to the PlanetUSA All-Star team as a substitute Friday, broke a 1-1 tie on a power play when he scored at 1:37 after Brian Fahey’s shot from the left point was deflected to him by Dupont as he tied up two Penguins defensemen in front. The goal was Anisimov’s team-leading 21st and extended his point streak to eight games (five goals, six assists).
“I’ve been beating Brodie’s drum for a couple weeks because his linemates (Anismov and P.A. Parenteau) show up with the big numbers on the scoresheet all the time, but Brodie is doing a lot of the dirty work,” Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander said. “It’s a good line combination where everyone has his role, and they all work well together. Brodie goes unnoticed sometimes by lay people.”
Ouellette made it 3-1 at 7:52 as he took a centering pass from Tommy Pyatt and beat Adam Berkhoel low to the stick side from 30 feet in the slot.
After Wiikman (32 saves) made two stellar stops on 28-goal scorer Chris Minard and denied a wide-open Nick Johnson in the slot, Greg Moore scored into an empty net with 57.7 seconds left.
The Penguins (27-16-1-2) took a quick lead on their first power play when Mark Letestu skated out of the left corner and put a backhander past Wiikman at 3:39. Letestu scored one of the Penguins’ three power-play goals in regulation Friday night in a 4-3 shootout victory over East Division leader Hershey.
Four minutes after Letestu’s 13th goal, Berkhoel came out to deny David Urquhart off a 3-on-2 and then made a good right pad save on Corey Potter’s shot from the right point.
Wiikman got his glove on former Wolf Pack center Jeff Taffe’s bid off a 3-on-1 with 3:40 left in the period, then Berkhoel stopped Parenteau’s close-in rebound bid after a strong rush and shot by Anisimov with 45 seconds to go.
The Wolf Pack tied it when Dupont got the puck to the point to Urquhart, whose shot deflected off Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy and past Berkhoel at 9:30.
Wiikman again denied Taffe on a 3-on-2 at 13:15, leaving the game tied headed into the third period, when the Wolf Pack tied their season high for goals in a period.
“I tried to explain to the guys (Friday) night that we couldn’t play a tick-for-tack chess match with Lowell and really needed pressure and extra effort, but we kind of got drawn into playing their patient, trapping game,” Gernander said. “But we and the Penguins are physical teams that play a similar forechecking, high-energy style, which bodes well for our team.
“It was a big bounce-back win for us with one of our better crowds. They were coming off a big, emotional win over Hershey, but I thought our guys really well. They have some very dangerous guys, and we did a pretty good job of containing them and creating our own offense. It’s a nice way to go into the break.”
Wolf Pack rookie defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti lost four lower teeth when hit in the mouth by a deflected shot by Lowell’s Brad Mills in the second period Friday night. Sanguinetti had two teeth replaced Saturday and will participate for the PlanetUSA team in the All-Star Classic skills competition tonight and All-Star Game Monday night in Worcester.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1 0 0 — 1
Hartford 0 1 3 — 4
First period: 1. WBS, Letestu 13 (Jeffrey), 3:39, pp; Penalties: Owens, Hfd (interference), 2:24; Bissonnette, WBS (fighting), 8:36; Sugden, Hfd (fighting), 8:36.
Second period: 2. Hfd, Urquhart 5 (Dupont, Ouellette), 9:30; Penalties: Lovejoy, WBS (tripping), 4:32; Lovejoy, WBS (cross-checking), 15:00.
Third period: 3. Hfd, Anisimov 21 (Dupont, Fahey), 1:37, pp; 4. Hfd, Ouellette 8 (Pyatt, Fahey), 7:52, pp; 5. Hfd, Moore 13 (Rissmiller, Wiikman), 19:02, en; Penalties: Engelland, WBS (delay of game), 1:05; Lovejoy, WBS (tripping), 6:42.
Shots on goal: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 11-8-14_33, Hartford 11-9-15_35; Power-play opportunities: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1-for-1, Hartford 2-for-4; Goalies: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Berkhoel 12-7-1-2 (34 shots-31 saves), Hartford, Wiikman 16-12-2-3 (33-32); Referee: Zac Wiebe; Linesmen: Luke Galvin, Dave Spannaus; A: 7,017.