Hartford, CT, February 14, 2015 – The Hartford Wolf Pack broke a 2-2 tie with three late-third period goals Saturday night at the XL Center, defeating the Albany Devils by a score of 5-2, in the front end of a home-and-home series between the two clubs.
Danny Kristo and Chris Mueller both scored twice for the Wolf Pack, and Tyler Brown scored the game-winning goal and added an assist. Former Yale Eli Jeff Malcolm made 29 saves in the Wolf Pack net, to improve to 2-0-0 in AHL action on the year. Mike Sislo (power play) and Rod Pelley (shorthanded) scored first-period goals for the Devils, who got 27 saves from Scott Clemmensen.
The game was Hartford’s only stop at home over the course of a nine-game stretch, and they were able to snap a streak of four losses in a row (0-2-1-1). The Devils, on the other side of the coin, suffered their fourth loss in a row.
The Wolf Pack surrendered the first goal of the contest. Sislo had the unassisted tally, during Albany’s first power play of the game. Sislo came across the middle and let one go from just below the circle, ringing the pipe and making it 1-0 Devils at 7:55 of the first.
Things got worse when, on their fourth power play opportunity of the period, the Pack gave up a shorthanded goal. A pair of Hartford defenders closed down on Albany’s Darcy Zajac, who was able to thread a pass between them and find Pelley streaking towards the net. The result was a breakaway, on which Pelley made one move and snuck it past Malcolm at 17:00. It was Pelley’s fifth goal of the season.
In the dwindling seconds of the first period. the Wolf Pack found some daylight. Their fifth power-play opportunity of the night gave Mueller a chance to bring the Pack within one at 19:15. Chris Bourque rifled a pass through the slot to a waiting Mueller on the back door. An Albany defensemen tipped the puck as it traveled past the front of the net, throwing off the timing of Clemmensen and giving Mueller a clean look. It was his sixth goal of the season and Bourque’s 24th assist.
After more than 13 minutes of scoreless action in the second, Hartford tied it up with a beautiful shot from Kristo at 13:42. Chad Nehring was streaking towards the slot and dropped it off for Kristo, who rattled the crossbar with a shot from the left side.
“I didn’t have much room to shoot at,” Kristo said. “I didn’t have anything short side so looked far side and snapped it pretty good. I’ve had numerous goals this year that have gone post and out, so it felt good to get a bounce the right way.”
Malcolm was very impressed with Kristo’s placement. “Coming off his off wing like that and putting it in a teacup, It was a pretty nice shot. Nice to see it at that other end,” Malcolm said. It was Kristo’s 14th of the season, giving the Wolf Pack solid momentum heading to the final stanza.
The third period was deadlocked until Brown found daylight on a breakaway at 16:35. Brown was able to pick the puck off the stick of an Albany defenseman and got the jump on a breakaway chance. He made a nice move to tuck it past Clemmensen on the forehand side, giving Brown his first Wolf Pack goal of the season.
“That’s my go-to move there,” Brown said. “When I was down in Greenville (ECHL), that was my go-to, and I thought it would work out there. Luckily it went in.”
What turned out to be the game winner was unassisted, and the Wolf Pack took a 3-2 lead at a crucial point.
Eighteen seconds later, Mueller tipped a slap shot from defenseman Mat Bodie past Clemmensen for Mueller’s second of the game, suddenly giving the Pack a two goal cushion. Hartford was able to create lots of traffic in front of the net, making it difficult for Clemmensen to track the puck. Dylan McIlrath also picked up an assist on the play.
An empty-netter from Kristo at 18:45 gave Hartford its third goal in 2:10, and effectively shut the door on any chance for an Albany comeback. It was Kristo’s second of the game and 15th of the season, assisted by Brown.