The Chicago Wolves rallied from a two-goal deficit to force overtime, but Evan Polei scored 1:18 into extra time to give the Manitoba Moose a 4-3 victory Saturday afternoon at Canada Life Centre.
Forwards Andrew Poturalski and Maxim Letunov and defenseman Joey Keane scored for the Wolves (24-6-3-1), who maintained the best record in the Western Conference despite playing without two of the AHL’s top four scorers.
Stefan Noesen (37 points) was recalled from loan Friday by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes while CJ Smith (36 points) missed the game due to illness.
Manitoba (21-10-2-1), which pulled within seven points of the Wolves in the Central Division race, took the lead at 10:22 of the first when forward Thomas Caron picked the top right corner with a wrister from the top of the left circle.
The Moose boosted their lead to 2-0 at 12:21 as they swiped a pass behind the net and Bobby Lynch took advantage when goaltender Dylan Wells couldn’t get reestablished in the net.
Poturalski answered at 13:05 as David Gust battled to win a puck along the right half-wall and found Poturalski open in the high slot. The Wolves captain took a half-second to gather the puck and snapped it past Manitoba’s Evan Cormier for his league-leading 19th goal this season.
Manitoba regained a two-goal lead late in the first period as Lynch swiped the puck in the neutral zone, slalomed his way to the bottom of the right circle and flicked the puck between Wells’ skates.
Letunov pulled the Wolves within 3-2 at 5:01 of the second as he scored five seconds before the end of the game’s first power play. Defensemen Jalen Chatfield and Max Lajoie pinched at the left half-wall to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Chatfield fed it to Letunov along the goal line. He pull-and-dragged past a defenseman to move to the front of the net and slide the puck through Cormier’s five-hole.
The Wolves pulled Wells with two minutes left to get an extra attacker on the ice, which paid off shortly after head coach Ryan Warsofsky used the team’s timeout. After Gust scrapped to win the puck along the half-wall, Keane took a pass from Letunov and whipped a wrister from the left point that pinged through traffic and for a 3-3 knot with 1:39 left in regulation.
Manitoba picked up the game-winner 1:18 into overtime when Polei raced down the right wing, slashed toward the middle and wrapped a shot around Wells’ outstretched stick.
Cormier (4-1-2) finished with 36 saves while Wells (0-0-1) stopped 23 shots in his Wolves debut. Chicago did not commit a penalty for just the fifth time in the team’s 28-year history.
The Wolves complete their five-game road trip at 2 p.m. Sunday against Manitoba. They return to Allstate Arena for big home games on Jan. 26, 28 and 29 — and the Wolves are honoring health care workers by offering two free tickets to any of these three games. To request tickets, click here or contact a Wolves representative at [email protected].