Hartford Staves off Elimination
Beat Lowell Devils 5-2
Wolf Pack Stave off Elimination
By Gerry Cantlon Eurohockey.net
HARTFORD,CT-The Hartford Wolf Pack staved off elimination from the playoffs with a solid 5-2 win over the Lowell Devils before 2,914 at XL Center Friday night.
The win combined with beating Lowell and Manchester beating Bridgeport allowed to creep within 7 points from the 4th place spot to 75 points to their 82 points in the Atlantic Division.
Not to say it was easy as they were 51 seconds of nerve shattering defensive breakdown early in the third period that nearly erased two of the better periods the team has played in several weeks.
The first period saw the Wolf Pack dominate the Devils holding them to just 5 shots on goal and zero through the first 16:30 of the period.
In the meantime they grabbed a 1-0 lead as Finnish defenseman Ilkka Heikkenen after keeping the puck in the offensive zone, snuck in backdoor trailing left winger Dane Byers.
Then center Kris Newbury fired a perfect cross ice pass to Heikkenen who redirected his 8th of the year past Lowell goalie Jeff Frazee who was caught cheating to his left at 7:02.
“The more compact you can be, the better. Whether passing the puck or filling in from behind. We had puck possession and that make our transition even better,” remarked Hartford coach Ken Gernander.
The Wolf Pack staked a 2-0 lead early in the second period as NHL veteran Donald Brashear found an open Ryan Garlock who made the deke on Frazee swept all the way around to the RW side of the next and swept in his 6th of the season.
Then just 1:14 later the Pack got to a rarified area, a 3-0 lead as leading goal scorer Dale Weise persistence and timing gave him his 27th of the season. Rushing out with Newbury, Weise was looking to he look to return the favor,but Lowell forward Russian Alexsander vasyunov intercepted the pass,but then backhanded it right on Weise’s stick who quickly snapped a wrister off the far post and into the net.
“ I just tried to feed it in the middle to Newbury,but that’s the way things have been going for me lately, the puck is finding me and I got a lucky bounce,” remarked Weise.
Then in the third the Pack’s season long Achilles heel-loose defensive zone play made life a lot tighter than it need to be.
Defenseman Olivier Magnan smashed his third past goalie Chad Johnson on a pass from center Michael Swift from behind the net that bounced over Matt Halischuk’s stick on its way to Magnan. Then 51 seconds later in a mad scramble in from where Lowell forward Nathan Perkovitch took out Bobby Saguinetti and Ilkka Heikkenen got trapped behind the net David McIntyre had three whacks at the puck before it his second of the season went in.
“We got sloppy and we have addressed this all season long,but John (goalie Chad Johnson) played very well for us in keeping the game close, ” said Gernander.
Lowell came full steam ahead looking for that third goal and kept Hartford on its heels,but Johnson stood tall and prevented Lowell from getting the equalizer. He turned away forward Stephen Gionta and defenseman Matt Taorima’s bids.
The Pack restored the two goal lead at 11:35 as Paul Crowder beat Brodie Dupont to a puck in goal crease for his 12th of the season and first goal since February 17th-a 19 game span. Russian Evgeny Grachev mired in his own horrible slump (1 goal in 32 games) fired a quality chance that got through Frazee for Crowder.
The Wolf Pack sealed the win as Brodie Dupont whose hit forced a turnover, found an open Bobby Saguinetti in the slot top of the RW faceoff circle and he buried his 9th stickside of Frazee at 16:49.
“We had a tough practice Thursday (after a poor loss Wednesday) and were cliché right now its one game at a time for us,” remarked Dale Wesie.
Saturday night they play in Springfield trying to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive.
NOTES: Weise may be in some trouble with the AHL after taking a hit from Lowell Rob Davison late in the game along the right wing boards in the offensive zone when they separated he had Davisons stick and tossed it to a fan to the amusement and delight of the crowd,but hot his head coach. A contrite Weise “Its something I shouldn’t have done.” Referee Shaun Davis assessed him a game misconduct penalty and he and the linesman kept Lowell at bay from any potential donnybrook erupting. So Weise’s ESPN highlight attempt could be costly if the league suspends even for a game with a short lineup as is.…Lowell’s 21 shots in the third was a season high given up by the Pack…Expect Johnson to start his sixth in a row and eight of the last nine in Springfield….Leading scorer Corey Locke and AHL 2nd Team All Star on recall to the Rangers was a healthy scratch in Tampa Bay….AHL award season rolls on Albany’s Casey Borer injured severely in their bus crash last season on February 19 was named AHL’s Fred Hunt award winner. He suffered a broken neck vertebra and was out in this past January 23….San Antonio goalie Josh Tjordman won the Yanick Dupre Award for Man of the Year award for community service. Earlier in the week Peoria Swedish center Lars Eller won rookie of the month honors and was named to the AHL all rookie team …Lowell plays host to first place Worcester and Bridgeport entertains second place Portland Saturday night. Worcester and Portland have already qualified for the AHL playoffs.
Story added on 3rd April 2010 at 18:40 GMT
Story submitted by: Gerry Cantlon.