Kicker of Elves
Hannu Toivonen: Not my night (Chris Rutsch photo)
The Hartford Wolf Pack's 5-1 victory over the Providence Bruins in Game One of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night was such a complete thrashing that some will see it as a portent of trouble to come, i.e. the Pack are using up all of their chips in the first game already. No doubt this series will still play out over a full six or seven games, since that's the pattern that the Wolf Pack have followed in the playoffs in recent years. Advancing into the next round has almost never been easy for Hartford, and whether or not brittle Al Montoya will have the cojones to withstand a long series against a rough Providence team is anyone's guess.
In any case, outside of a ten-minute stretch overlapping the first and second periods where Providence held all the momentum, the Wolf Pack kicked the Bruins around last night from start to finish. Alex Bourret scored for the Wolf Pack just 24 seconds into the game, and the line of Bourret - Jarkko Immonen - Nigel Dawes never let up one bit, as those three players were on the ice for all five Wolf Pack goals. All three players finished the night at +5, with Dawes having a five-point game (two goals, three assists) and Bourret notching two goals and two assists.
The Bruins responded to Bourret's early goal with a score of their own at 15:04 of the first period, when Sean Bentivoglio fired a bullet of a wrist shot from the right face-off circle that found its way through two players who were jockeying elbow-to-elbow in front of the net, then past Al Montoya before sticking like a dart between the center support and the back of the net.
That ended up being the lone bright spot for Providence. Hartford weathered a rough patch into the beginning of the second period where the Bruins appeared ready to take the game over, and then grabbed the lead back on a goal by Jarkko Immonen eight minutes into the second period. Immonen's goal was set up by a beautiful feed from Dawes, who carried the puck in deep by faking his way past two Providence defenders, Jeff Hoggan and David Krejci, before spinning and sending the puck back to Immonen.
Dawes then scored the next two goals for Hartford, with Alex Bourret capping off the game's scoring with his second goal of the night seven minutes into the third period. Bourret also had the check of the game for the second home game in a row, on a head-on collision where Bourret flat-out leveled a Bruins player who was caught looking the other way.
Dave Liffiton taking apart Nate Thompson (Heather Rutsch photo)
Dale Purinton found a willing dance partner in fellow old-timer/has-been Aaron "Softness" Downey, fighting Downey twice with the second fight being better in the first-- though both fights were pretty boring (as Dale's usually are). Two more fights came when things got chippy late in the game, as both Dave Liffiton and Dane Byers took matters into their own hands when it appeared that referee Terry Koharski planned to ignore two obvious penalties.
Liffiton slugged it out with Nate Thompson, after Thompson repeatedly cross-checked Liffiton in the back during a battle for the puck in the corner, with no whistle forthcoming; then, in what could've been a really ugly incident with ten seconds left in the game, noted putz Sean Curry two-fisted Dane Byers in the face as Byers was skating out from behind the Providence net, with the puck already well up ice and Byers looking the other way. Byers quickly jumped to his feet and settled things with Curry.
The Wolf Pack are playing without the services of tough guy Francis Lessard, who was suspended on Tuesday by the AHL for ten games after a major brawl that happened between periods in Hartford's game at Portland on Sunday (the final game of the regular season). Lessard and Portland's Trevor Gillies were both bloodied by the fight, and Lessard flipped off the Portland crowd with both hands as he left the ice.
Photo by Ron Morin, Ron's Sports Photography