HARTFORD – Boo Nieves scored the game-winning goal on a second-period power play, and Chris Nell made 21 saves Saturday night at the XL Center, as the Hartford Wolf Pack defeated the Providence Bruins, 2-1, in front of a season-high crowd of 9,021.
Top New York Rangers prospect Lias Andersson also scored for the Wolf Pack, who won for the seventh time in their last eight home games, and Peter Cehlarik had the only Providence goal.
Saturday night’s game was a defensive battle for the first thirty minutes, with neither team finding a way to put any pucks into the net, and the first goal of the game did not prove to be any different. Andersson hung tough in front of the net amongst a host of Bruins defenders and found a way to tap in a stopped shot from Brendan Smith, to break the 0-0 tie at 10:32 of the period.
Smith said, “I got lucky finding [Andersson] going to the net hard, and was able to put him in a good position.” Smith was credited with an assist on that goal.
Just a few moments later, Anton Blidh was sent to the box for holding and the Hartford power play unit, which came into the game ranked eighth in the AHL, went to work. Off a faceoff in the Providence zone, Scott Kosmachuk found an open Ryan Sproul at the blue line, and he took a few steps to the net and fired a rocket towards Jordan Binnington. The Providence netminder was able to put a shoulder on the shot, but Nieves was there to clean up the rebound and score. Sproul’s assist extended his point streak to five games, and he now has a point in seven of his last eight. With 6:01 left in the second period the Wolf Pack led the Bruins, 2-0.
The job was not done yet, though. At 7:38 of the third period, Cehlarik found a way to sneak one past Nell to put the Bruins on the board and cut the Wolf Pack’s lead in half. Cehlarik’s goal came on a re-direction of a shot from the left point by Emil Johansson. Other than the goal from Cehlarik, the Pack’s defense had a stellar performance.
An Adam Tambellini tripping penalty with 1:14 left in regulation forced the Wolf Pack to end the game with a six-to-four skater disadvantage, after Providence pulled Binnington. The Pack were able to stonewall multiple Providence shot attempts in the last seventy seconds and cleared the puck to ice the game.
Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge said, “I liked our back end. I thought we played a heavy game back there. Sproul and Smith, obviously lots of experience there, we were able to get pucks back in coverage and advance them up to our forwards, let them do their job.”
Smith thought the Wolf Pack did a better job Saturday, compared to a 4-2 loss Friday night against Hershey, with, “Smarter plays, with smarter reads, and that was best for us with the outcome.”