If you’re going to end a long and ugly losing streak, you might as well do it with an exclamation mark.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers beat the East Division-leading Syracuse Crunch at home 7-2 and put a stop to their first losing streak of the season at eight games. Recently-announced captain Colin McDonald led the way with four points, and his linemates, Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson, also had multi-point games.
The Sound Tigers got back to what worked for them earlier this season: crashing the net and getting second and third chances. They got some fortunate breaks, too -- John Persson’s shot from along the boards into a virtually empty net with Syracuse’s goaltender out of position comes to mind -- but in hockey at any level, the lucky breaks usually come to a team for a reason, and the Sound Tigers, who always seemed about a half-step behind the play during the losing streak, created their good fortune by seeming a step ahead of the play in yesterday’s win.
As is usually the case with Bridgeport, they put themselves in early penalty trouble, with Matt Donovan taking a slashing penalty just 43 seconds into the game. But Casey Cizikas was strong on the penalty kill in the early going, and he popped in a shorthanded goal to give the Sound Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Special teams played a large role in the win, as the Sound Tigers’ second goal, a point shot from Jon Landry, came on a 5-on-3 power play, and Nelson’s second-period tally as well as the seventh and final Sound Tiger goal by McDonald in the third -- a goal that slid under the net and was counted after an official review -- both came with the man advantage.
After Nelson’s goal at 11:15 of the second made it 5-0 Bridgeport, Syracuse seemed to flip a switch, pinning the Sound Tigers in their own zone for a while and scoring two goals within a 1:06 span on Anders Nilsson, who made his second start in two days.
But Persson’s goal at 18:56 of the second gave Bridgeport back the momentum and ended any chance of a Crunch comeback.
For Nilsson, it was a good bounce-back game after an underwhelming performance the night before in Albany. Against Syracuse, he stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced.
McDonald, Niederreiter and Nelson were hungry yesterday, pouncing on every loose puck. They were especially strong on the power play, but even 5-on-5, they were a tough unit to play against. Niederreiter threw some nice hits and just seems more and more comfortable using his size to his advantage in the AHL.
CIZIKAS HURT AND OTHER INJURIES
Casey Cizikas did not play in the third period. Per Michael Fornabaio at the Connecticut Post
), he suffered an upper-body injury that’s unrelated to his previous upper-body injury. If the dissemination of information is anything like Ullstrom’s injury, expect more mystery than answers.
Ullstrom and Travis Hamonic both were still out of action in yesterday's game.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Bridgeport -- 26, Syracuse -- 39
Power play: Bridgeport -- 3/5, Syracuse -- 0/5
McDonald: 2g, 2a, even
Nelson: 1g, 2a, even
Landry: 1g, 1a, +1
Persson: 1g, 1a, +2
Niederreiter: 2a, even
Cizikas: 1g, +1
Sundstrom: 1g, +2
McKay: 1a, +1
Ness: 1a, +2
Niederreiter: 23gp, 11g, 13a, 24 pts
Nelson: 23gp, 10g, 9a, 19 pts
McDonald: 21gp, 2g, 12a, 16 pts
Sundstrom: 23gp, 7g, 6a, 13 pts
Landry: 6g, 7a, 13 pts
Bridgeport is in Portland tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 11 to take on the Pirates at 7 p.m.