The Bridgeport Sound Tigers put forth a solid team effort from the net out to earn a 4-2 win in their home opener, battling from behind for the second straight night.
Nino Niederreiter scored his second goal in as many nights, and now leads the Sound Tigers with four points. Brock Nelson sits one point behind him after contributing an assist in the game on a shorthanded goal by Brandon DeFazio. And Kevin Poulin made 29 saves, some of them on excellent scoring chances by the visiting Providence Bruins.
The Sound Tigers looked good at the start the game, skating and passing well in the opening shifts. But at 7:39 of the first period, the Bruins would strike first. Ty Wishart made a big check along the wall just inside his own zone, but the puck advanced anyway, and with Wishart out of position, Providence's Ryan Spooner made a short pass to Jamie Tardif who had a 2-on-1 down low with Maxime Sauve. Calvin deHaan dropped down to block the pass across to Sauve, but it got through him, and Sauve scored (the score sheet has Spooner with the primary assist and Tardif with the secondary, but it was clearly the other way around). The Sauve-Spooner-Tardif line, I thought, was Providence’s best the entire night.
The Bruins carried the momentum forward, going on two straight power plays as the Sound Tigers followed a Jon Landry hooking penalty with a bench minor for too many men on the ice. But while killing the second penalty, Nelson and DeFazio broke up ice on a 2-on-1. Nelson fired the puck down low to the far side, and Providence goaltender Michael Hutchinson kicked the puck out onto DeFazio’s stick. DeFazio fired the puck home for a shorthanded goal, his second goal of the season, to tie the game at one.
In the game the previous night against the Connecticut Whale, the second period was the Sound Tigers’ best. In this game, although Bridgeport got it done where it counts, grabbing the lead and keeping it, I thought the second was their weakest frame; they were outshot 15-7 and Providence generated several good scoring chances. It started out well enough, as Niederreiter converted on Bridgeport’s third power play of the night, tipping a deHaan point shot past Hutchinson at 4:35 to put the Sound Tigers ahead 2-1. For the rest of the period though, Poulin was called on repeatedly to hold that lead. He was at his best in the middle of the frame when the Sound Tigers took penalties at 9:42 and 12:05, but he made his flashiest save later in the period, using his glove to snag a puck that climbed awkwardly and appeared labeled for the back of the net on the short side.
Poulin would continue his strong play in the third, being tested right from the drop of the puck. Then at 5:51, Landry gave the Sound Tigers a two-goal lead, taking the puck down the boards, around the net, and backhanding it past Hutchinson. The Bruins would strike back less than six minutes later on a nice give and go between Craig Cunningham and Carter Camper. Cunningham would get the goal, slipping past deHaan and finding the back of the net.
Providence would pull Hutchinson for the extra man late in the period, but Matt Watkins’ empty-net goal with three seconds remaining would cap off an impressive defensive effort by the Sound Tigers to close out the game.
PLAYERS ON ISLES FANS’ RADAR
Despite both of them being a minus-1 for the night, I thought Wishart and Casey Cizikas had strong games. Wishart led the Sound Tigers with five shots on net, and though he was on the ice for both Providence goals, he made some smart plays throughout the game as well. Cizikas looked strong offensively early in the first and great defensively late in the third when the Bruins pulled their goalie.
Niederreiter had a good game from beginning to end, as did Nelson. Kabanov finished the night minus-2, but flashed some impressive offensive skill in scattered shifts throughout the game.
The line of David Ullstrom-Johan Sundstrom-John Persson put together some solid shifts. Ullstrom earned his first point of the season, getting a secondary assist on Niederreiter’s power-play goal.
deHaan certainly had an active night, as he was on the ice for every goal in the game but one. He was part of the breakdowns down low on both Providence goals, but he made good plays as well both on defense and offense. Ups and downs, but the ups were good.
FURTHER OFF ISLES FANS’ RADAR
DeFazio (1g, 1a), Landry (1g, plus-1) and Watkins (1g[EN], 1a) all had solid games. Watkins brought a lot of energy in addition to putting up his two points.
For the second straight game, the Sound Tigers took more penalties than their opponents.
Poulin got the start over Anders Nilsson, and the broadcast informed us that although signs pointed to Nilsson starting, he was feeling under the weather.
Matt Donovan was scratched. Mike Fornabaio at the Connecticut Post
] reports that it was a call by Bridgeport Coach Scott Pellerin, rather than an illness or injury. Fornabaio notes Donovan was on the ice for two goals against the Whale as well as the play that led to Kyle Jean’s penalty-shot goal.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Providence -- 31, Bridgeport -- 27
Power Play: Providence -- 0/6, Bridgeport 1/4
IF THE ENTIRE SEASON WAS THIS ONE GAME, THE JEKYLL/HYDE ISLANDERS FANS WOULD SAY
This team is for real!
Bridgeport visits the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Saturday Oct. 20.