Rick DiPietro probably couldn't imagine a worse way to begin his AHL stint.
In his first start this season for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, he yielded two goals on the first two shots he faced from the Connecticut Whale. Before the first period was 11 minutes old, the score was 3-0. And by the time the opening frame was over, the Sound Tigers were down 5-0 and DiPietro's night was over.
His misfortunes were not all of his own doing. Bad penalties and worse defense had a hand in the former first-overall pick's rough night.
Bridgeport's Matt Watkins took an offensive-zone hooking penalty just 2:16 into the first. The Whale needed only 43 seconds of that power play to score on their first shot of the game. Chris Kreider was left all alone by the side of the net and tipped home a pass from Logan Pyett. Thirty-two seconds later, Matt Donovan took a defensive-zone cross-checking penalty, and shortly into that resulting power play, the Whale would connect on another cross-ice pass down low. Brandon Segal, shadowed but not really challenged, tipped the feed from Kris Newbury over DiPietro, who was sliding across.
A bad start for DiPietro, but things seemed to settle down for him immediately afterward. He faced a few easy shots and turned them aside with no troubles. The Sound Tigers even generated a couple of chances of their own, particularly on their only power play of the frame.
But at 10:33, DiPietro let up a long-range wrist shot that he'd probably like back. The shot, by Mike Vernace, beat him high over the blocker. Maybe DiPietro was a bit screened, and sure, the shot was well-placed, but certainly a wrister from just inside the blue line is a save the goaltender needs to make.
The next goal, however, with 3:16 left in the first, was one few goaltenders could have stopped. Christian Thomas and Brandon Mashinter entered the zone two-on-one against Bridgeport defenseman Dallas Jackson. Jackson, who did not seem certain whether to take the man or the pass, just lay down on the ice instead, essentially making it a two-on-none. Thomas and Mashinter then executed a series of passes that looked like some improbable play I'd set up in NHL '09 (yes, I still play '09…) and Thomas finished it off to put the Whale up 4-0.
Things got worse for DiPietro just 19 seconds later when he yielded a fifth goal that was an all-too-familiar sight for Isles' fans. DiPietro overhandled, then mishandled, the puck behind the net and was unable to get back into position in time, allowing Newbury to score his first goal and third point of the game.
And that was it for DiPietro. He was pulled after the first period in favor of Kenny Reiter, and the Sound Tigers found themselves down 5-0 despite outshooting the Whale 13-12. The broadcast noted that DiPietro was not in the runway, where the visiting team's extra goaltender usually sits, throughout the second and third periods, leading to speculation among the Whale announcers about whether he may have been hurt. But that was not the case, as Connecticut Post
writer Michael Fornabaio has tweeted that DiPietro will start tomorrow's home game against the Adirondack Phantoms.
In the second period, after a couple of saves by Reiter that seemed to settle the Sound Tigers down a bit, they began the long climb back. Slowly Bridgeport began to control the flow of the game, although much of that probably was the result of the Whale sitting on a very comfortable lead. At 17:49 of the second, Nathan McIver put a shot from the point through traffic, and it deflected off of a Whale defender and by Connecticut goaltender Cameron Talbot. Nino Niederreiter picked up a secondary assist on the play, giving him his team-leading 40th point in 52 games played.
In the third, the Sound Tigers continued to put good pressure on the Whale. At 1:56, Blair Riley scored Bridgeport's second goal. John Persson put a shot on net, and Riley, cruising in front, picked up the rebound and shot it over Talbot's shoulder.
The Sound Tigers picked up a third goal at 7:34 to bring them to within two after more sustained pressure in the Whale's zone. Shortly before the goal, Niederreiter missed a golden opportunity in front when he was unable to handle a pass from Chad Costello. Costello would pick up the goal later, batting the puck out of the air after Aaron Ness put it toward the net.
But that's the closest Bridgeport would get. At 12:25, after a mad scramble in front of Reiter, Mashinter put the puck in for Connecticut's sixth goal.
Christian Thomas would add his second goal of the game on the power play in the last minute for a final score of 7-3.
NUMBERS FOR THE NIGHT
Bridgeport -- 38, Connecticut -- 30
Bridgeport -- 0/6, Connecticut -- 3/5
1g, 1a, +1
We all read about "the interview" News 12 reporter Kevin Maher conducted with DiPietro. Maher sent out some tweets that gained a fair amount of attention -- and sympathy for DiPietro as it seemed as if the reassigned goaltender might be battling some mental-health issues. Ultimately, DiPietro clarified his comments, Maher appeared to be making something more of a lighter comment DiPietro said about where he might be if not for his wife, and the story died down. One place where DiPietro did not find sympathy though was from fellow AHL player Graham Mink of the Providence Bruins. As reported by Fornabaio (http://blog.connpost.com/...forward-everywhere/10760/
), Mink tweeted yesterday, "I feel bad that DiPietro has to play in the AHL. How's he going to survive 3in3s & bus trips? O yeah, w/ 36M$ left on his contract! #suckitup"
But his own teammates on the Sound Tigers have said nothing but good things about having the former All Star and Olympian around. Fornabaio quotes Niederreiter ((http://www.ctpost.com/spo...in-Bridgeport-4310766.php
) as saying, "The public and the fans don't always look [at DiPietro] as positive as the players do." He called DiPietro a "good guy" and added that, through his work ethic and competitiveness, "He's got the guys' respect."
Fornabaio also quoted Donovan as saying DiPietro is "a good guy to have around" and a "good team guy."