The Imploding Pack Inevitable
Jim Schoenfeld (Chris Rutsch photo)
The Hartford Wolf Pack almost never make any playoff series an easy one, something that was mentioned here even after their dominating 5-1 victory over the Providence Bruins in Game One. True to form, up 3 games to 2, the Wolf Pack gave away Game Six on Saturday in a miserable performance, losing 5-2, and will now have to settle things with a Game Seven at home later tonight.
The first period of last night's loss was one of the worst periods that Hartford has played this season, ending with the Bruins on top, 2-0. It could've been 3-0 (or worse), as a shot by Providence with 15 seconds left was deflected right in front of Al Montoya and easily could've gone in, but Montoya somehow kicked his right skate out just in time.
Shoddy defensive play was the first period's major malfunction, but even after the Wolf Pack tidied things up a bit in the second period, Providence kept putting pucks in the net. Hartford scored twice in the second period, only to have Providence respond a minute or two later with a goal of their own. Montoya was pulled after Providence's fourth goal at 13:31 of the second, but Chris Holt let one in within 40 seconds of entering the game, putting Providence up, 5-2.
Six months in a leaky boat: Holt lets one in (Chris Rutsch photo)
Newcomer Jordan Owens fought Providence's Petr Kalus seconds after the Bruins' last goal, and beat Kalus up pretty good, but any flames that might've been ignited by Owens' effort eventually died out. Despite a number of strong offensive flurries by Hartford before the second period was over, the Pack failed to score the goal that might've gotten them back into it. The game ended on a scoreless third period.
Defenseman Hannu Pikkarainen, who was benched for three weeks (and briefly demoted to Charlotte) immediately after a horrendous showing against Portland at the beginning of the month, found his way back into the line-up somehow for Thursday's fifth game (a 1-0 win in Providence), and then scored the Pack's second goal in last night's game. It was a bizzare slow-motion sort of goal, as Pikkarainen took a pass from Alex Bourret at the top of the slot and then advanced towards the net while the Providence defenders just stood in place, allowing Pikkarainen plenty of time to pick his spot and snap a wrister home.
Jordan Owens taking on Petr Kalus (Chris Rutsch photo)
Even though the calls were fairly even (5 power plays per side), referee Frederick L'Ecuyer was a complete idiot. Just blowing the whistle isn't enough of an authority trip for this guy; L'Ecuyer likes to talk, apparently, and I could see him running his mouth at the offending player each time he'd make a call. He'd even yap when he didn't make a call, explaining why he didn't blow the whistle while the play was still going on.
The Pack had plenty of their own problems in this game, even without the officials' help-- an abysmal power play, for one (something like 2-for-31 in this series), and an inability to handle the Providence forecheck throughout the first period, leading to numerous retreats and turnovers.