In his first game back with the team he led in scoring a year ago he showed his play-making ability by racking up three assists on his way to #1 Star of the Game honors against a previously red-hot affiliates of the New York Islanders that had won five of their last six and fell to an overall record of 10-5-0 with the one of their worst results of the season.
Five different Phantoms scored goals, three of which came on a revitalized power play attack, and the Phantoms put them in from every direction on Sound Tigers goalie Kevin Poulin. Harry Zolnierczyk, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Tye McGinn and Shane Harper all got it done for Adirondack.
It was the perfect way to begin the Thanksgiving Feast Homestand for the Phantoms as they enjoy the support of the home crowd for their first game in Glens Falls in two-and-a-half weeks.
But the story of the game was the return of the popular Jason Akeson who had 55 points including 41 assists to lead Adirondack last year.
He began this season in the ECHL with Trenton so he could log the most minutes possible for the first few weeks of the year. And then set up the first three Phantoms goals in a quick nine-minute spurt in the second period. His last assist came on a fine cross-ice pass from the left circle finding Brayden Schenn on the right dot to bury a one-timer and give the Phantoms a 3-1 lead.
"I like playing here and it was great to be back out here," Akeson said. "Our line had some good chemistry there. Playing with Coots (Sean Couturier) is a real treat. The guy's a good player in the NHL so it's really exciting to play with him. The power play was clicking tonight. It's the guys I'm playing around. I like to make plays and when they finish them off it makes you look good."
The second-period barrage saw the Phantoms out-shoot the Sound Tigers 18-6 in perhaps their most dominating 20-minute stretch of hockey this season.
Not surprisingly, head coach Terry Murray liked what he saw. "Good to get a win at home and I really liked the effort tonight," Murray said. "I thought the guys were focused from the start of the game. There were smart plays coming out of our own end. Our defensemen were really good at moving the puck up. And we got the forecheck going and had some pressure in the offensive zone and scored some timely goals."
After a scoreless opening frame as the Phantoms felt out the opponents, it took just 13 seconds into the second period for Akeson to find Harry Zolnierczyk busting into the Bridgeport zone and shoot one home while falling to his back and sliding to the corner. That even-strength goal was ALMOST a power play tally but Brisgeport had returned to full strength just three second prior.
In the ultra-weird-stat department, all four of Harry Z's goals have been the first goal of an Adirondack home game. It was only the fifth home game of the year for the Phantoms, and Zolnierczyk has the first Adirondack goal in four of them.
A minute-and-a-half later, Sean Couturier drifted across the slot during a 5-on-3 advantage and while drawing the goalie Poulin over from left to right saw an opening to pull a quick slapshot against the grain where Poulin would not have time to recover.
Nino Niedereiter would push it across the slot to Jon Landry on a Bridgeport power play about a minute later to get one of them back and make the score 2-1.
But later in the period, it would be Akeson again on the assist for his third of the period on the impressive cross-ice vision for Schenn's one-timer.
"He (Akeson" made a nice play on Schenn's goal" Murray said. "I thought the play was a great set up by Gustafsson first of all and then Akeson finds him. His play was good and he played the game with tempo and he moved his feet which was something I didn't see throughout the training camp. He's quick and he's fast and I like to see him play that way."
The power play not only benefited from Akeson's play-making but also by the return of Tye McGinn who had missed the last three games with injury. The big body created necessary traffic that even led to his own goal on the deflection of a Sean Couturier drive in the third period making it 4-1.
And the Phantoms closed the scoring late in the third period on the hustle of Rob Bordson who stole the puck from the goalie Poulin behind the net and then connected nicely with the trailed Shane Harper to slam his fourth of the season into the mostly open net.
The Phantoms outshot Bridgeport 34-23. The Phantoms scored a season-high three power play goals as they went 3-for-7. Bridgeport went 1-for-4.
Scott Munroe was the winning goalie with 22 saves. His 68th career Phantoms victory puts him three behind Antero Nittymaki for second place all-time in franchise history. Neil Little leads all Phantoms goaltenders with 177 career wins.
Adirondack improved to 3-2-0 at home and 7-8-0 overall.
Cullen Eddy, Mike Testwuide and Shane Harper all dropped the mitts and took five-minute fighting majors with various members of the opposition.
Scratches for the Phantoms included Zack FitzGerald, Eric Wellwood, Matthew Ford, Jeff Dimmen and Matt Mangene.
The Phantoms homestand continues on Black Friday against Norfolk and Saturday night against Hershey.BOXSCORE
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 1 at Adirondack Phantoms 5
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - Glens Falls Civic Center
Bridgeport 0 1 0 - 1
Adirondack 0 3 2 - 5
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Bourdon Adk (hooking), 8:06; Wishart Bri (interference), 13:48; Cantin Bri (delay of game), 18:10.
2nd Period-1, Adirondack, Zolnierczyk 4 (Akeson, Bourdon), 0:13. 2, Adirondack, Couturier 4 (Akeson, Schenn), 1:42 (PP). 3, Bridgeport, Landry 3 (Niederreiter, Sundstrom), 4:21 (PP). 4, Adirondack, Schenn 9 (Akeson, Gustafsson), 8:50 (PP). Penalties-Ness Bri (holding), 0:36; Cantin Bri (cross-checking), 1:00; Rinaldo Adk (interference), 2:49; Halmo Bri (high-sticking), 8:30; Donovan Bri (slashing, fighting), 10:32; Harper Adk (fighting), 10:32.
3rd Period-5, Adirondack, McGinn 4 (Couturier, Schenn), 8:32 (PP). 6, Adirondack, Harper 3 (Bordson), 16:37. Penalties-Manning Adk (hooking), 1:38; Ullstrom Bri (hooking), 7:58; Gallant Bri (fighting), 8:36; Testwuide Adk (fighting), 8:36; Halmo Bri (fighting), 9:11; Eddy Adk (fighting), 9:11; Zolnierczyk Adk (delay of game), 11:05.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 7-6-10-23. Adirondack 10-18-6-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 1 / 4; Adirondack 3 / 7.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Poulin 6-3-0 (34 shots-29 saves). Adirondack, Munroe 3-4-0 (23 shots-22 saves).
Referees-Chris Brown (86), Jamie Koharski (84).
Linesmen-Mike Emanatian (69), Steeve Lemay (64).