ROSEMONT, IL – The Chicago Wolves recovered from Saturday’s 4-3 loss Sunday afternoon against the Tucson Roadrunners, edging them out in overtime at home 2-1 at the Allstate Arena. Teemu Pulkkinen registered both of Chicago’s goals in the winning effort and regained the AHL scoring lead with 11 points (4G, 7A) in five contests.
The first period of play was marked by the two teams trading off penalties, killing two each in the first twenty minutes. While both Chicago and Tucson generated chances throughout, Max Lagace and Marek Langhamer were perfect entering the first intermission.
The scoreless tie was finally broken by Pulkkinen 4:53 into the second period, as he put the puck past Langhamer five-hole. His third goal of the season came on a 3-on-0 rush after a Tucson defender lost his edge at the Wolves’ blue line, but was unaware how much of a step he had on the nearest Roadrunner defender.
“I just saw the goalie there and the net. I didn’t wanna look back, what’s going on. I went five-hole, so if he [Langhamer] would made the save, so probably there would be a rebound.”
Pulkkinen was correct in his assumption about the possibility of a rebound if he had not scored. Langhamer would give up many rebounds throughout the second period, but Chicago failed to capitalize on any of them. Lagace continued to be perfect in goal for the Wolves as he helped carry the 1-0 lead into the third.
Keeping with the theme of the game, the teams went on to trade chances in the third. Chicago was trying hard to register an insurance goal, while Tucson wanted to grab the tying tally. When Emerson Etem went off for delay of game – faceoff violation with 3:02 remaining in regulation, a Wolves win seemed all but guaranteed.
Though they were a man down, Tucson never gave up. After registering a shorthanded goal against Chicago in Saturday’s game, the Roadrunners were optimistic about being able to get the tying tally even as they were killing a penalty. Nick Merkley scored Tucson’s second shorthanded goal of the weekend with 1:48 to play after a bad giveaway by a Chicago defender, which would send the game into extra time.
Each goaltender made save after save to keep the game knotted in overtime. A tired Chicago team iced the puck in consecutive plays and was forced to stay out, but Beau Bennett stepped up, winning both faceoffs and allowing the Wolves to get a key change.
Head coach Rocky Thompson praised Bennett’s play at the dot after the game.
“That was huge because we were really tired there. If we lose possession, they’ve gotta defend 3-on-3 without any legs, that can be a recipe for disaster so those were clutch.”
Pulkkinen teed up the eventual game-winner from just across the blue line, which beat Merkley with 24 seconds remaining in the overtime period to send the Wolves home happy.
“I knew there was twenty seconds to go, thirty seconds to go, so I – that’s my game. I want to shoot the puck, and sometimes you get lucky. I’ve had so many good chances and I didn’t score. And then, once in awhile, you take a shot like that and it goes in. But that’s the game of hockey. Every time you try to shoot, there’s a chance. So I was lucky to get a goal.”
Thompson continued to give credit to the Wolves’ leading point-getter.
“He’s been really working hard down here. He works hard in practice. He obviously – you see him out there in the game, he loves to shoot the puck. The guy who shoots the puck the most ends up scoring the most goals, so he’s done a really good job and was rewarded tonight with two goals.”
Lagace made 24 saves in the win and recorded an assist on Pulkkinen’s game-winner.
Chicago’s power play had led the league with a 40% success rate entering the weekend, but was only able to convert one of 10 chances against Tucson, including going 0-for-5 Sunday afternoon.
Pulkkinen was optimistic about the future of the power play.
“I think we took one step back this weekend, but we had different guys playing. Obviously, [Alex] Tuch went up and [Brandon] Pirri’s out for a couple of games, so we had different guys. We didn’t practice that much. We had Wednesday out, so we practice a couple of days only, so I think it’s going to be better when we can find the right guys. It’s okay, we got two points, so we don’t have to mind about the power play tonight.”
Shortly after Sunday’s contest, the team announced goaltender Maxime Lagace was called up to the Las Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL, where it is expected he will be for at least a month due to an injury to Malcolm Subban. The 24-year-old Lagace joins Oscar Dansk — who was recalled on Oct. 19 — as the two active goalies on the Vegas roster.
Next up for the Chicago Wolves is the Manitoba Moose, who make their first visit of the season to the Allstate Arena Wednesday, October 25 for an 11 a.m. puck drop. Wednesday’s game marks Chicago’s third of a five-games-in-eight-days stretch.