HARTFORD, Conn – Miller had a goal and three assists Saturday night at the XL Center, and Ryan Bourque scored the game-winning goal and added two assists, as the Hartford Wolf Pack defeated the Albany Devils, 4-3.
It was a see-saw battle, with the Wolf Pack giving up the first goal of the game, then scoring the next three, before giving up two quick third-period goals. After Albany had tied the score at three, Bourque’s 17th goal of the year at 12:25 of the third held up as the game-winner.
Jesper Fast and Bretton Stamler also scored for the Wolf Pack, who won for the sixth time in their last seven games, and Conor Allen had two assists. Dov Grumet-Morris made 33 saves. Brandon Burlon, Mike Sislo and Joe Whitney scored for the Devils, and Kelly Zajac had two assists.
“The first period was pretty frustrating, they came out hot and pretty much all over us,” Bourque said. “We know any time we play Albany it’s going to be a stingy kind of game, but once we got our feet moving and started to put pucks deep and play the game we play, we started to have an advantage.”
After a scoreless first period in which Albany outshot the Wolf Pack 13-5, the Devils finally solved Grumet-Morris with a power-play goal at 9:04 of the second period.
It was Burlon ending the scoreless deadlock, with Kyle Jean in the penalty box for goaltender interference. Zajac moved the puck to Burlon on the left side of the slot, and Burlon snapped a shot past Grumet-Morris’ stick side.
The goal was Burlon’s fourth of the season, and three of them have come against the Wolf Pack.
The Wolf Pack would respond with the next two goals, though, with Fast and Stamler scoring only 2:34 apart.
Fast buried the rebound of a Bourque shot at 14:31 to get the Wolf Pack on the scoreboard. Miller found Bourque in front of the net with a pass, and after Albany goaltender Scott Wedgewood (17 saves) stopped Bourque’s close-in try, the rebound came right to Fast along the goal line on the left-wing side, and Fast slammed it in.
Stamler then gave the Wolf Pack their first lead at 17:05, with his second career AHL goal. Miller handed the puck to Stamler in center ice, and Stamler broke into the Albany zone. As he charged up the slot, Stamler had a shot blocked, but the puck caromed right back to him and he was able to make a quick move and beat Wedgewood.
The Wolf Pack scored again early in the third period, as Miller tallied at 2:02 to make it a 3-1 game. Allen threw the puck down low from the left point and Miller, stationed to Wedgewood’s right, deflected between him and the post.
The Devils countered shortly thereafter, though, as Sislo and Whitney both scored in a span of only 28 seconds, starting at 6:29.
Sislo’s goal came after Harri Pesonen’s shot from a sharp angle on left wing squeezed through Grumet-Morris’ pads. Sislo reached in behind the Wolf Pack goaltender and poked it into the net, despite the best efforts of Hartford defenseman Danny Syvret.
Then, at 6:57, Whitney scored his 20th of the season to bring the Devils into a tie. Whitney worked the puck away from Stamler in the slot and snapped a shot past Grumet-Morris on the stick side.
Grumet-Morris steadied himself after that, though, and Bourque and Miller combined to put home the decisive goal at 12:25. Miller played the puck to Bourque in center ice to create a two-on-one into the Albany zone. Carrying down right wing, Bourque used Miller as a decoy and ripped a shot through Wedgewood’s legs, to put the Wolf Pack ahead to stay.