The Bridgeport Sound Tigers blew a three-goal lead on New Year’s Eve, but managed to skate out of Glens Falls, N.Y. with two points thanks to stellar goaltending by Kevin Poulin and three shootout goals.
In the team’s previous three games -- two wins against the Connecticut Whale and one against the Manchester Monarchs -- the Sound Tigers started early, scoring within the first two minutes of each contest. Yesterday against the Adirondack Phantoms, a team that has had Bridgeport’s number this season, the Sound Tigers needed just 27 seconds to get on the board. Matt Watkins popped in a rebound after Blair Riley carried the puck over the blue line and took a shot off of the rush on the game’s first shift.
Early in the second on the power play, Johan Sundstrom tipped in a point shot from Matt Donovan, giving Bridgeport a 2-0 lead. The goal represents Sunstrom’s 22nd point of the season, moving him into a tie for third on the team with Brock Nelson, who has been out the past several games with a broken jaw.
At 7:06 of the period, John Persson carried the puck toward the corner in the offensive zone, curled back up high toward center ice, then drifted into a good shooting lane and, while fighting off a defenseman who was draped over him, beat Phantoms’ goaltender Scott Munroe with a wrist shot for his 11th goal of the year to make it 3-0. Persson is now tied with Nelson for second on the team in goals.
The Phantoms lifted Munroe at that point in favor of Cal Heeter, and then the entire game changed as Adirondack seized momentum.
Off the rush, Tye McGuinn for the Phantoms played the puck to Jeff Dimmen, who beat Bridgeport goaltender Anders Nilsson with a wrist shot to make it 3-1 at 9:48 of the second.
At 13:18, Sean Couturier was left all alone in front of the net, and he took an Eric Wellwood pass from behind the cage and shot it by Nilsson to pull the Phantoms to within one.
At 18:13, still in the second, the Phantoms pulled even as Brandon Manning took the puck from behind the net and jammed it near side past Nilsson’s left pad.
To start the third, Bridgeport pulled Nilsson and went with Poulin between the pipes, but it would not stop the Phantoms’ momentum. Adirondack outshot Bridgeport 14-7 in the third. However, Poulin stood tall, using his quick reaction time to make several big saves as his team tried to avoid letting what seemed like a sure win slip away. The game remained 3-3 through regulation.
In the overtime period, Bridgeport seemed to find itself again, setting up some nice plays, but like Poulin, Heeter managed to stand tall in relief of an embattled starting goaltender, and the game went to the shootout.
The Sound Tigers got shootout goals from Nino Niderreiter, David Ullstrom and Jon Landry to seal the victory. Colin McDonald was stopped by Heeter. Poulin yielded a goal to Jason Akeson in the shootout’s second round, but he stopped Brayden Schenn, Couturier and Wellwood to preserve two points for his team. Actually, Couturier never got a shot off, losing control of the puck as he carried it in on Poulin.
Niederreiter picked up a secondary assist on Sundstrom’s power-play goal, keeping his point-a-game pace alive at 31 points in 31 games played.
The game was a rollercoaster. Bridgeport looked like it would cruise to a win, until it all of a sudden looked like a certain loss when Adirondack came roaring back. The third period was incredibly entertaining, and despite the lopsided shot total in that frame, there was some good back-and-forth play at times. That said, without some heroics from Poulin in that frame, the Phantoms would have taken this one in regulation. Poulin looks like he is finding a good rhythm of late, elevating his save percentage from below .900 just a couple of weeks ago to .915 after yesterday's game.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Bridgeport -- 35, Adirondack -- 38
Power Play: Bridgeport -- 1/7, Adirondack -- 0/5
Watkins: 1g, even
Sundstrom: 1g, even
Persson: 1g, even
Landry: 1a, -1
Cizikas: 1a, -1
Riley: 1a, even
Niederreiter: 1a, even
DeFazio: 1a, even
Donovan: 1a, even
Niederreiter: 31gp, 16g, 15a, 31 pts
McDonald: 30gp, 5g, 18a, 23 pts
Nelson: 25gp, 11g, 11a, 22 pts
Sundstrom: 32gp, 9g, 13a, 22 pts
Persson: 32gp, 11g, 7a, 18 pts
Cizikas: 26gp, 9g, 9a, 18 pts
Landry: 32gp, 6g, 10a, 16 pts
Ullstrom: 21gp, 4g, 12a, 16 pts
Donovan: 31gp, 4g, 11a 15 pts
Watkins: 32gp, 6g, 8a, 14 pts
Bridgeport visits the Springfield Falcons on Friday, Jan. 4. Springfield sits two points ahead of Bridgeport for first place in the Northeast Division. The Falcons have two games in hand.