When I last talked about Hartford a few days ago I wrote about how things were not working there and that changes needed to be made not just for the present but also the future. For me all of that is still true, but the team showed some signs of life last night in a very nice 5-2 win in which they mixed skill with toughness and stuck up for one another. The game would be a re-match of last week’s matchup against the Springfield Falcons in which Dane Byers returned to Hartford and eventually got the clincher in the shootout. In his one Chad Kolarik who was acquired for the afore mentioned Byers would be the star in his return to his former home as he would score 2 goals and add a helper in only the teams second win in 14 outings.
Kolarik would open the scoring by deflecting a Kris Newbury shot in at 3:09 of the 1st period to give the team a 1-0 lead. After Springfield tied the game it would be Kolarik again who would show of the skill he possesses scoring a beautiful goal on goal from behind his net to running a give and go with Newbury in center ice and then turning on speed in the Springfield zone twisting up the D with a toe drag move and scoring far corner over the glove during a power-play to make it 2-1 15:42 into the game. Just 29 seconds after this Mats Zuccarello would get back into the goal business with his seventh of the year to make it 3-1 and make the rest of the game relatively academic. The goal for Zuccarello came in transition when he would get the puck in center get by both defenders and score on a hard low shot.
Just as big as those goals might have been two fights the team had in the period. The first would be for Jared Nightgale that happened in the middle of the period against Dane Byers. Byers had just blindsided Ryan Garlock and it would be Nightengale who would step up and take the fight to show that this team has some unity and will play for one another. The second would be for Dale Weise who was playing his first game after missing 15 with his hand/wrist injury. The Weise fight was sparked when the 6 foot 4 inch Mike Blunden nearly removed Mats Zuccarello’s head from his body, or at least that was the intent. Weise with no regard for himself or fear over the wrist he was just coming back from stepped in for Zuke and would put Blunden down. The goals are always nice especially when they are as pretty as Kolarik’s second but sometimes those fights standing up for teammates mean even more because it can help to bring a room together. At the end of 1 the team had a 3-1 lead and a two huge team building plays to take into the locker room.
They would come out in the second and Rangers fan favorite Wade Redden would score 2 minutes in to make it 4-1 when he scored from the left circle and then Justin Soryal would make it 5-1 scoring on a deflection at 16:22 of the second to make it a 5-1 game. The Soryal goal was once again started by Kolarik who found Niemi at the point after a good fore-check and it was his shot that Soryal would tip home. In the third Byers would spark a goal for the Falcons as he kept the puck in and it eventually led to a shot being deflected through Chad Johnson who had an extremely low volume night facing only 13 shots in total.
Obviously a five goal outburst for a team that has struggled as mightily as this one to score is a welcomed sight, but just as important might be those two fights because as bad as the production has been in Hartford the dysfunction has been even worse. As I said those kinds of plays can bring a room together and help to make up for places where talent might lack at least in the short term. We will see if this was a turning point or just another positive blip like the 7 goal outburst of weeks back.
· Not that this team is a one man team or anything like that but it is interesting to note that with Dale Weise in the lineup the club is now 2-1-0-1 in the four games that he has played.
· Chad Kolarik is certainly playing well against his former team as he now has 3G 1A with the club all against his former team
· Zuccarello’s 1G 1A now gives him 7G 3A this season
· Nice to see McDonagh and Valentenko have solid plus/minus nights with a +2 for each