Two Islanders’ prospects that might have cracked the big club this season had there not been a lockout scored two goals apiece as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers defeated the Albany Devils last night 4-3.
Casey Cizikas scored Bridgeport’s first and third goals while Matt Donovan scored the team’s second goal and game-winning fourth goal. Johan Sundstrom also had a multi-point game, picking up two assists in the home victory.
Goaltender Kevin Poulin, making his second start in a row, got stronger as the night went on, and made multiple game-saving stops in the closing minutes of the contest.
Bridgeport’s second-ranked power play was unable to convert on six chances, but both second-period goals the Sound Tigers scored came moments after Devils’ penalties expired.
Cizikas’ first goal at 7:10 of the first was a hard wrist shot taken from the high slot that beat Devils’ goaltender Keith Kinkaid up high just under the crossbar. Colin McDonald picked up an assist, pulling up and finding Cizikas as he broke into the zone. Jon Landry also got an assist for setting the play up by sending a long pass up ice to McDonald.
At 14:45, Mike Sislo tied the game at one on a wraparound goal. Poulin seemed confused as Sislo did not immediately try to stuff the puck when he came around the net. Instead, Sislo drifted off to the side, then turned back to the middle. Poulin looked like he couldn’t find the angle and didn’t know if he should be down on the ice or up on his feet. After dropping down a second time, Sislo put the puck over his shoulder.
A little over a minute later, Mattias Tedenby gave the Devils the lead. Stephen Gionta had the puck behind the net, and fed it into the low slot, where Tedenby was able to outmuscle Cizikas, who was all over him, and stuff the puck by Poulin.
At 17:18 of the period, Bridgeport’s Blair Riley had his way with Darcy Zajac in the game’s only fight. Riley knocked Zajac down with a series of painful-looking rights, then flung Zajac back down shortly after he got up to continue the bout.
Early in the second, at 1:45, Donovan tallied his first goal to tie the game at two. While on the power play, Matt Watkins fed the puck up high to Donovan. Donovan then took his time, drifting to the center to find a lane. Just as the power play expired, he fired a wrist shot from the high slot past Kinkaid.
Cizikas’ second goal of the game at 12:14 of the second would give Bridgeport the lead once more. Sundstrom controlled the puck in the corner, then fired a hard pass in front to a breaking Cizikas, who dropped to a knee and fired a shot past Kinkaid.
The Devils would once again tie the game at 15:39. On the power play, Adam Larsson had the puck at the blue line. He walked toward the middle of the ice, drawing defenders toward him. Matt Anderson cycled up to where Larsson had been and took a wide open pass. Anderson used the room he was given to move toward the slot, and he fired an impossible shot into the far corner.
The lone third-period goal, a Donovan tally at 12:44, would prove to be the game winner for the Sound Tigers. It was a bit of a weak goal for Kinkaid. Donovan took the puck off of an offensive zone faceoff win by Sundstrom. Donovan moved down the boards and threw the puck at the net from a bad angle, looking for a teammate in front as a couple of Sound Tigers were heading that way. But somehow the puck ended up going between Kinkaid’s legs and into the net. On the lone replay they showed, it looked like the puck may have changed direction slightly, so maybe it hit a Devils’ defender in front.
The game was physical at times, with David Ullstrom notably throwing his body around for Bridgeport. There was not as much flow as in the previous two games against the Norfolk Admirals, but the Albany Devils are one of the few AHL teams I have seen that seem to have some sort of actual structure when they’re in their own zone, so that limits some of the long, cross-ice offensive zone passes seen in some of the other games.
He was all over the place last night. If he wasn’t carrying the puck up ice, he was breaking to the net ahead of defenders looking for a pass. On defense, he was catching opposing players from behind and breaking up plays in his own zone. It was nice to see him get rewarded for his efforts with the two goals.
Brock Nelson remained out after taking a puck in the face in last Friday’s game against the Admirals. Cizikas took his spot centering the first line. Travis Hamonic was also still on the shelf.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Bridgeport -- 30, Albany -- 34
Power Play: Bridgeport -- 0/6, Albany -- 1/5
Donovan: 2g, +3
Cizikas: 2g, +1
Sundstrom: 2a, +2
Persson: 1a, +3
Landry: 1a, +1
Watkins: 1a, +1
Backman: 1a, +1
McDonald: 1a, even
Niederreiter: 27gp, 13g, 14a, 27 pts
Nelson: 25gp, 11g, 11a, 22 pts
McDonald: 25gp, 4g, 16a, 20 pts
Sundstrom: 27gp, 7g, 9a, 16 pts
Persson: 27gp, 9g, 5a, 14 pts
Cizikas: 21gp, 8g, 6a, 14 pts
Landry: 27gp, 6g, 8a, 14 pts
Donovan: 26gp, 3g, 10a, 13 pts
Ness: 27gp, 0g, 12a, 12 pts
Watkins: 27gp, 4g, 6a, 10 pts
Bridgeport is home on Saturday, Dec. 22 to take on the Adirondack Phantoms. The Phantoms beat the Sound Tigers 5-1 in the teams’ only other meeting this year.