If playing a man down in a hockey game is unfavorable, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers must not have gotten the memo.
Bridgeport allowed nine Adirondack power plays Saturday, but they killed eight of them and turned the tables on the Phantoms with a shorthanded goal, which ended up playing a huge role in the Sound Tigers’ 3-2 win.
It was a two-on-one rush from Bridgeport that led to the third shorthanded goal against the Phantoms in their last two games. Defenseman Scooter Vaughan got the puck in his own zone and carried it up the right side of the ice and deep into the Phantoms’ end before threading a perfect pass into the slot for Chris Langkow. Langkow scored easily to tie the game at two.
The goal came at the worst possible time for the Phantoms.
Just a minute before, Adirondack had earned a two-man advantage when Johan Sundstrom took a boarding call with still a minute left in a minor penalty to teammate Matt Donovan. After a patient 30 seconds of power play, Jason Akeson whipped a pass from the left corner across the goal-mouth to Chris VandeVelde, who slammed it home to give the Phantoms a 2-1 lead. The goal had barely been announced when Bridgeport got it right back.
“It was a pinch and they got it buy us,” Akeson said. “Some guys were caught flat footed.”
“Shorthanded goals have been [killing] us all year,” added Phantoms’ head coach Terry Murray. “There was a misread on it and then we give up those situations. It was a tough one.”
The shorthanded goal was only a part of a much bigger problem that has been plaguing the Phantoms’ power play lately. In nine chances on the man advantage they scored only once, and on the other eight they had trouble generating a consistent attack. There was a lot of “one and done” rushes and missed opportunities on prime chances.
“Those are the games you have to take advantage of it and today we didn’t,” Akeson said. “When you get that many opportunities you need to bury some.”
“The power play has been a concern,” Murray said. “We are one of the lower teams in the league on the power play and that comes right back to the offensive part of the game, where we are having trouble. We are a little reluctant to put pucks to the net sometimes.”
|Cousins was drafted by the Flyers in the 3rd Round (68th overall) in 2011 |
When they have been putting pucks to the net, it has been fruitful. The Phantoms’ first goal came on a shot from Nick Cousins that he tossed on net from the right circle, and it tipped off the glove of Anders Nilsson before crossing the goal line. He had the option to try to move around the lone defender or pass the puck into the slot, but simplicity worked in his favor.
“Cousins scores simply by throwing a puck to the net and [finding] a hole,” Murray said. “There were a couple other pucks that seemed to find a way to get through [Nilsson] and almost went in, but we are reluctant to pull the trigger. You don’t have to make that perfect play. I think most times today in the NHL and the AHL, putting pucks to the net off the wing is now encouraged more often. Not to necessarily score on the original shot, more to get pucks there, look for loose pucks and rebounds—something coming back to crash the net for on the weak side. We aren’t doing that on a consistent basis.”
All things considered however, it was a very evenly fought game. What the Phantoms lacked on the power play, they made up for on the penalty kill, shutting down all six of Bridgeport’s advantages. When they were playing five aside, both teams brought energy and physicality.
“I thought it was a well played game by both teams,” said goaltender Carsen Chubak. “It just ended up with one unlucky bounce there at the end.”
That unlucky bounce was the lone scar on an otherwise sound game by Chubak, who was starting for the first time since Dec. 28. With about nine minutes left in the third, Andrew Clark pulled up on the right side and fed a pass to the left circle for Aaron Ness, who buried it for his fifth of the season. On the play, Chubak tried to stride across, but fell off-balance.
“I think he caught his skate in the ice,” Murray said. “He couldn’t seem to get that right leg across. I would like to see him have that one over again. [He] gives us a chance here tonight, he played well. He competes, he battles, he found some pucks that were very difficult saves with a lot of traffic around him. I liked his game.”
Chubak recorded 26 saves on 29 shots, while Nilsson stopped 26 of the 28 sent his way.
With the loss, the Phantoms have now dropped their last eight games and 11 of their last 12 to fall to 22-27-03 and fourth place in the Northeast Division with 47 points.
Adirondack will have a few days off before heading to Utica to take on the Comets on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.