The visiting Bridgeport Sound Tigers never trailed in a game they could have easily lost if not for strong play from goaltender Kevin Poulin and some fortunate bounces at both ends of the ice.
Nino Niederreiter picked up his third goal and team-leading fifth point of the season in the 3-2 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and Poulin turned aside 34 shots as the Sound Tigers improved to 3-0.
Calvin deHaan (1 assist, +1) left the game with a minute to go after blocking a shot off of his arm (update -- unfortunately, it's another shoulder injury...out for season, per IPB/Fornabaio).
While the score sheet shows that the Sound Tigers led the game from the 12:00 mark of the first period on, the Penguins carried the play for most of the night. It seemed the Penguins were sharp everywhere on the ice except for in front of the Sound Tigers’ net, passing up shots or missing the net on several quality scoring opportunities. When they did get shots through, Poulin was solid for Bridgeport. His best and most important save of the night came late in the third, when he kicked his pad out in time to stop a redirection down low, denying what would have been a game-tying power-play goal.
In general, the first period saw fairly even play, with both teams generating chances. But while the Penguins could not convert their opportunities, the Sound Tigers would take advantage of two bounces: one well-earned and one sort of fluky.
On the first goal, Johan Sundstrom won an offensive-zone faceoff and worked the puck back to Calvin deHaan, who made a cross-ice feed to Ty Wishart. Wishart fired a shot on net that Penguins’ goaltender Brad Thiessen stopped. But he kicked out a juicy rebound to his right, and Sundstrom pounced on it, recording his first goal as a Bridgeport Sound Tiger and giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Later, with under three minutes left in the period, Matt Donovan dumped the puck off of Casey Cizikas and into the Penguins’ zone from center ice. As far as former Sound Tiger/Islander Dylan Reese and goaltender Thiessen were concerned, the puck should have wrapped around the boards. Thiessen went behind the net to play it, and Reese backed him up, waiting at the far boards. But the puck took a weird hop off of the wall and bounced in front, where Niederreiter, who was crashing the net, took advantage of the mishap to give Bridgeport a 2-0 lead. The Sound Tigers’ broadcast reported that the strange bounce has occurred before at the arena in Wilkes-Barre.
The second period began with some good back-and-forth play before Riley Holzapfel would get the Penguins on the board at 7:48 with assists from Paul Thompson and Beau Bennett. The play was set up with a shot from the top of the circle by Reese, and Bridgeport defensemen Aaron Ness and Jon Landry were unable to find the puck down low as the Penguins would get three additional shots at Poulin, finding the back of the net on the final try.
From that point forward, the Penguins controlled most of the play, pinning the Sound Tigers in their own zone for long stretches at a time. To its credit, the Bridgeport defense was able to keep most of the play to the outside.
And despite being outplayed for much of the second (Bridgeport was outshot 13-5 in the period), the Sound Tigers would regain their two-goal lead at 16:32, with a Penguins’ turnover leading to some pretty passing by the Swedish line of Sundstrom, David Ullstrom and John Persson. Persson would finish the play for his second goal of the season, with Ullstrom picking up the primary assist and Sundstrom adding his second point of the game.
The third period saw more zone time for the Penguins. The Sound Tigers took some penalties, which did not help, but even five-on-five the Penguins were the sharper team. At 16:00, Eric Tangredi, who played well all night, would use his strength to muscle in a rebound after Poulin turned aside a shot through a screen from the point, cutting Bridgeport’s lead to 3-2 (Islanders fans may remember Tangredi as the very unfortunate victim of Trevor Gillies’ highly illegal elbow and subsequent facepalm-worthy verbal thrashing on Fight Night...cue the McDonalds drive-thru gif). Poulin was a bit shaken up on the play, but stayed in the game.
While the Penguins would continue to press after the goal, The Sound Tigers, as they did in the previous game against Providence, would clamp down late and hang on for the win.
Late in the third, after the Tangredi goal, Bridgeport was awarded a penalty shot after Reese covered the puck in the crease. Niederreiter took the shot, making several dekes, but was denied by Thiessen.
*See earlier update...shoulder injury, done for season* As noted earlier, deHaan left the game with a minute to go. It happened after he slid down to block a shot, and with Connecticut Post’s
Michael Fornabaio reporting that there was no immediate update (http://blog.connpost.com/fornabaio/
), we can only assume that deHaan’s exit was related to the shot block.
The Sound Tigers’ first line of Cizikas, Niederreiter and Colin McDonald again played like a first line should. While the Penguins took the play to the Sound Tigers for most of the second and third periods, it should be noted that the Penguins’ momentum was interrupted only by strong shifts from this line, particularly right after Tangredi’s goal, when they generated a good opportunity in front that led to Niederreiter’s penalty shot.
Do I have to call them the “UPS Line” like the broadcast does? Whatever you want to call them, Ullstrom, Sundstrom and Persson had another strong game. They scored two of the three Sound Tigers’ goals (though Kirill Kabanov was on in place of Ullstrom for Sundstrom’s goal, since Ullstrom had played on the power play shortly beforehand). Persson also had another point-blank opportunity denied by Thiessen after receiving a nice pass in front from Ullstrom.
Has to be Poulin again, although the 3-0 start is nice, too.
The defense pairing of Ness and Landry had a tough night, as they were on the ice for the two Penguins’ goals and failed to protect the front of the net on both of them.
THREE STARTS FOR POULIN
Poulin has started all three games for the Sound Tigers. Fornabaio reports that Bridgeport coach Scott Pellerin said Anders Nilsson is still not 100 percent, which I assume is in reference to the illness that kept him out of the game against Providence. Whatever the reason, Poulin has seized the opportunity.
The good news is the Sound Tigers killed all five penalties against them (six, officially, but the last one came with one second left in the game). The bad news is they failed to convert on their own five chances, including a brief 5-on-3 in the first.
McDonald and Brandon DeFazio faced off against their former Penguins' mates, while Wilkes-Barre's lineup included former Sound Tigers Reese (who played well) and Trevor Smith.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- 36, Bridgeport -- 22
Power Play: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- 0/6, Bridgeport -- 0/5
Niederreiter -- 3g, 2a, 5 pts
Cizikas -- 2g, 1a, 3 pts
DeFazio -- 2g, 1a, 3pts
Nelson -- 1g, 2a, 3 pts
Hamonic -- 0g, 3a, 3pts
(Persson, Sundstrom, Watkins, deHaan, Kabanov, McDonald and Ullstrom all follow with 2 points each).
Bridgeport travels to Worcester next Friday (Oct. 28) to play the Sharks
IF THE ENTIRE SEASON WAS THIS ONE GAME, THE JEKYLL/HYDE ISLANDERS FANS WOULD SAY:
Poulin should start every game for the Islanders when the season starts!