Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas –
Dwight Helminen scored the game-winning goal with 27 seconds left in regulation, and veteran agitator Dale Purinton scored a pair of goals, leading the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 4-3 victory over the Houston Aeros at Toyota Center. The game featured four fights and three ejections in the first period alone. Josh Harding
made 28 saves and Benoit Pouliot scored his team-leading 11th goal for Houston (8-9-0-1), which went 1-2-0-0 while playing its first three-in-three set of the season. Ben Thomson and Matt Foy added a goal and an assist apiece.
The Aeros travel to San Antonio on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. faceoff before returning to Toyota Center to face the Rampage on Friday at 7:35 p.m.
Greg Moore tallied a goal and Steve Valiquette made 18 stops in relief of Al Montoya, who stopped just three-of-five shots in the first period. Hartford (5-10-1-0) had lost two straight following a 9-3 rout of San Antonio last weekend.
Hartford took just 2:03 to get on the board – the Aeros’ third goal against in the opening minute in as many games.
Brandon Dubinsky left a drop pass on the left wing at center ice for Moore, who had just eluded a check from Foy. Moore raced in 2-on-1 with Dubinsky and banged a shot off Harding’s glove and into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Harding’s best save of the opening period came 7:38 in, when Nigel Dawes stole the puck off Pouliot’s stick and walked on net in the low slot. Harding made a great glove save.
Aeros heavyweight Joey Tetarenko fought Francis Lessard twice in the first period – the pair has duked it out six times in their careers. Tetarenko won the first bout decisively, but Lessard got the second and picked up a 10-minute misconduct.
Less than a minute later, two fights broke out at the same time after the Aeros took exception to Dubinsky hitting Joel Ward hard into the boards in front of the Hartford bench. Josh Olson tangled with Dave Liffiton. Clayton Stoner
tangled with Dane Byers, and both picked up a game misconduct. Dubinsky was also shown the gate.
It took the Aeros more than three minutes to get a shot on the ensuing five-minute advantage, and Montoya kept the Hartford lead at 1-0 with a magnificent save. Alex Leavitt hit Pouliot at the left doorstep, and Montoya went post-to-post to make the diving stop.
Helminen then broke in alone shorthanded after a turnover but ripped a shot wide.
Houston’s last 39 seconds of the advantage were 5-on-3, and Pouliot hit the outside of the net.
Thomson finally broke through with his fourth goal of the season, with the Aeros still on the man advantage, with 5:10 left in the first. Peter Ratchuk wristed a shot on net from the center point, and Thomson backhanded the rebound by a prone Montoya.
Pouliot’s team-leading 11th goal made it 2-1 with 1:06 left in the first. Thomson carried the puck in on the left wing and put the puck on net. Montoya coughed up the rebound with his glove, and Pouliot put the puck over the goalie for his ninth goal in 10 games.
A bad turnover deep in the Houston zone led to Purinton’s second goal of the game to tie the game at 2-2 at 4:38 of the second. Erik Reitz lofted a pass from along the goal line, and Korpikoski picked it off at the top of the left circle. Korpikiski hit a cutting Purinton, who had all day to set up and rifled a shot over Harding.
Valiquette turned in his first tough save 8:30 into the second, when Roman Voloshenko took a feed from Leavitt from point blank range. But Voloshenko didn’t get the puck high enough, and Valiquette turned the shot away.
Harding kept the game tied with a superb save on rookie defenseman Marvin Degon with Hartford on the power play and 8:06 left in the middle period. Olson turned the puck over in the left corner, and it came to Degon, who walked in between the circles and fired into Harding’s chest.
The Aeros had a power play late in the second, and on the man advantage, Degon lost his stick for the Wolf Pack. But Valiquette snuffed out Pouliot’s short side shot.
Foy scored Houston’s second power play goal of the night – his sixth goal overall – 3:07 into the third period to give the Aeros a 3-2 lead. Reitz hit a flying Foy up the right wing, and the Aeros’ second-leading scorer raced in on Valiquette, sliding a low shot by the goalie.
Harding made his best save of the night with the Wolf Pack swarming on the power play and 7:31 gone in the third. Hartford captain Craig Weller wound up from the left circle, and Harding just got a piece of the puck with his glove before it went inside the near post. Harding then fell on his back and covered the puck to keep it from crossing the line.
But Purinton’s second of the night and third of the season got Hartford even with 7:57 left. He rebounded a Daniel Girardi shot up and over Harding, off the crossbar and into the net. Purinton’s three goals are just one off his career-high, set in 1999-2000 with Hartford.
Harding just got a piece of Hartford leading scorer Ryan Callahan’s drive from the right circle in transition with his glove with 2:15 left, and the puck scooted into the corner.
In the waning seconds of the third period, Callahan centered the puck just in front of the crease where Nigel Dawes slapped a point-blank shot off of Harding’s pads. Helminen pulled the puck out of the crease and backhanded the puck behind Harding who was pinned to the ice for the game-winner with 27 seconds left. The play came after the Aeros attempted to clear along the right wing boards, but the puck came to Hartford in the circle.
Houston finished 2-for-4 on the power play, while Hartford went 0-for-5. The Aeros have now killed off 27 straight shorthanded chances in the last five games, and 70-of-73 in the last 11 contests. Notes:Not dressing for the Aeros were Steve Shields, Dieter Kochan, Ryan Stokes, John Scott and Ryan Hamilton. The Aeros sent goalie Miroslav Kopriva to ECHL Texas this morning. He backed up Tony Quesada in Omaha last night. Aeros defenseman Curtis Murphy remains at 399 points in his professional career.