It looked like it was going to be another rough night for Rick DiPietro and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The home crowd was restless. Fans grumbled when DiPietro took a delay of game penalty a little over four minutes in for playing the puck outside the trapezoid. At 8:30 of the first period, the visiting Adirondack Phantoms scored their first goal, and it was not the best goal to give up. Once again on the penalty kill, DiPietro stopped a point shot from Brandon Manning, but he left a huge rebound off to his right and Jason Akeson, all alone, with half a net to shoot at, easily put it home. The crowd grumbled again, DiPietro was mad, and it felt like the team may be on its way to another rough first period and its eighth straight loss.
Even when Jack Combs tied the game at 12:40 of the first, the Sound Tigers did their best impression of the Islanders, giving the lead back just 23 seconds later. The Phantoms entered the Bridgeport zone with numbers, Akeson passed the puck across to Garrett Roe, and with a wrist shot from near the top of the circle, Roe beat DiPietro on the glove side up high, as the Bridgeport goaltender could not get across the crease fast enough to make the save.
But rather than give up, the Sound Tigers seemed to circle the wagons around DiPietro after that, and the goaltender appeared to find some confidence from the stronger defensive play in front of him. After yielding 14 shots in the first period, the Sound Tigers would only give up six in the second period and five in the third.
Jon Landry tied the game for Bridgeport at 12:42 of the second on a long shot that deflected off of a Phantoms' defenseman. At 2:43 of the third, Matt Watkins gave Bridgeport the lead, which they would hold for most of the rest of the game. But a late goal against -- as Bridgeport was killing a penalty and about to go two-men down -- tied it up again. A long shot from Tyler Brown rang off the post, and DiPietro was caught out of position trying to track the puck, allowing Matt Konan to tap it in.
But again, the Sound Tigers battled back. At 16:27, Brock Nelson took a nice stretch pass from Matt Donovan, pulled a nifty move putting the puck around a defenseman and picking it up on the other side, and then beat Phantoms goaltender Scott Munroe with a wrist shot to put the Sound Tigers on top for good 4-3.
A step in the right direction tonight. An .880 save percentage might not be anything to crow about, but certainly 3 goals on 25 shots is a lot more respectable than 5 on 12 shots. Credit to DiPietro for shaking off the bad first goal, and credit to the team defense for protecting a goaltender that's clearly having issues. If DiPietro really can ever play himself out of this, he'll need his defense to be there for him early on through the roughest patch.
THE STREAK IS DEAD
Finally, Bridgeport gets a win. The team had gone 7 games without a win, picking up two points in an OT and shootout loss in that span.