Zac Leslie netted his first goal as a member of the Chicago Wolves late in the third period to lift the club to a 5-3 win over the Cleveland Monsters on Sunday at Allstate Arena. With the victory, Chicago extended its series win streak to five straight games against the Monsters.
“He jumped up and joined the transition well,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “Those are the things he’s good at and we knew that coming in. We wanted to give him an opportunity to shine at those.”
Forwards Beau Bennett, Wade Megan and Brett Sterling as well as defenseman Kevin Lough also scored for the Wolves. In his second start since being returned on loan to the team on Jan. 24, Oscar Dansk (2-0-1) made 19 saves.
Chicago (26-17-6-2) opened scoring less than three minutes into the first period. On the rush up the right wing, Teemu Pulkkinen slid a pass to Lough and, from the top of the slot, Lough sent his shot top-shelf for the 1-0 Wolves lead.
Veteran Nathan Gerbe pulled the Monsters (17-27-4-3) even when he corralled a loose puck and sent it over Dansk’s shoulder for the 1-1 equalizer at 13:05 of the period.
Cleveland took the 2-1 lead with 34 seconds left in the opening session. Dansk made the initial save, but Ryan Murray was there to sweep in the rebound for the go-ahead goal.
In the second period — after the officials waved off a Tomas Hyka goal — the Wolves went out the next shift and tied the game 2-2. With Garrett Cockerill in the penalty box for high-sticking, Chicago’s forward unit rushed into the offensive zone and Bennett bombed a shot from the center of the left circle at 2:15 for the equalizing marker. Hyka and T.J. Tynan earned the assists on the play.
Just 5:46 later — Cleveland now skating on the power play — at the Wolves blue line, Gerbe thwarted a poke check, kept the puck in the zone and chipped it to Sonny Milano near the left wall. Milano skated to the same-side dot and wired a shot with Nick Moutrey screening Dansk for the 3-2 go-ahead goal.
With less than four minutes remaining in the second session, Sterling got behind the Monsters defense, scurried across the slot and slung a shot over a sprawling Matiss Kivlenieks (10-15-2) to knot the game 3-3.
On a play nearly identical to the game’s first goal, the Wolves broke the tie with a 4-3 go-ahead goal from Leslie with 5:18 to go. Skating up the left wing, Hyka slipped a pass to Leslie, who was rushing toward the slot. From the top of the slot, he lasered a shot past Kivlenieks for his first goal as a Wolves player and Chicago’s first lead since the first period.
Megan netted his team-leading fourth empty-net goal of the season with 34 seconds left in the game for the 5-3 final score.
Kivlenieks made 18 saves in the loss.
The Wolves travel to Grand Rapids at 6 p.m. Wednesday for a showdown between two hot Central Division teams. The game will be streamed on AHLLive.com.