In a time where every point is crucial and every game is must-win, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers came out flying in the first period and took it hard to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. But a three-goal second period by the Pens was too much for the Sound Tigers to handle as the Penguins emerged victorious 4-2 at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
With the Sound Tigers loss and a Hershey Bears win, Bridgeport's playoff push took a step back and they now find themselves five points behind the fourth place Bears in the AHL's East Division.
Connor James notched a goal and two assists and Nathan Smith potted a pair of goals in the second period as the Penguins moved into first place in the East Division.
Ben Walter and Jamie Fraser both tallied goals for the Tigers, and Mike Morrison made 26 saves for the Sound Tigers
"I thought after the first period we ended up a little flat," said head coach Jack Capuano. "They got two quick ones, and once you let them get going it was hard top stop. You could feel the emotion on the bench slide after that."
With the Penguins down 2-0 in the first period, Smith got the baby-Pens on the board, 6:34 into the second period to cut the Tigers lead in half. The Penguins center didn't get all of a Connor James centering pass, but got enough to push a fluttering puck over a sliding Morrison's glove for his 19th of the season.
Smith struck again just three and a half minutes later with his second goal of the night, capitalizing on a rare miscue by Morrison. The Bridgeport netminder looked to have lost sight of the puck behind his net, which allowed Smith to wrap the puck around and beat a late Morrison to the post to slide the puck in and tie the score at two.
The Penguins strong second period continued eight minutes later as they took the lead 3-2 on Alex Goligoski's ninth goal of the season. Kurtis McLean fed a cross-ice pass to the Penguins defenseman that stopped Morrison dead in his tracks, giving Goligoski the easy put-in.
"They came on strong at the end of the first, and it kind of caught us off guard." said Sound Tigers center Trevor Smith. "We had a good solid effort yesterday and we tried to carry it over and do the same thing today."
Walter opened up the scoring for both teams just 1:40 into the first period with his 18th goal of the season. Walter picked up a rebound off a Scott Ford slapshot from the point and put the put the loose puck home past Penguins goaltender John Curry's left skate.
The Sound Tigers completely dominated the first two minutes of the game, out-shooting the baby-Pens 9-0 and keeping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shotless until the 9:30 mark of the first.
Special teams worked to the Sound Tigers advantage in the opening stanza, and for the fourth straight game they put a power play goal on the board. Fraser converted on the man-advantage at 18:28 of the opening frame, streaking in from the blue line and slamming home a Walter centering back door pass into the open cage to give Bridgeport a 2-0 lead. The goal was his seventh of the season.
Bridgeport was 1-for-3 on the man-advantage tonight, and held their opponents scoreless when down a man. It was the fourth straight game the Sound Tigers did not give up a power play goal.
James gave the Penguins an insurance goal 3:52 into the third period on a three-on-two rush to put Wilkes-Barre/Scranton up 4-2.
The Sound Tigers continue their push for the playoffs tomorrow afternoon at 4pm, taking on their corss-state rivals, the Hartford Wolfpack at the Arena at Harbor Yard.Bridgeport Sound Tigers
7 Jeff Tambellini - 9 Ben Walter - 27 Matt Keith
25 Tyler Mosienko - 23 Trevor Smith - 10 Sean Bentivoglio
11 Tyler Haskins - 22 Colton Fretter - 24 Peter MacArthur
91 Keith Johnson - 28 Jean Desrochers
44 Drew Fata - 19 Scott Ford
15 Andy Sertich - 50 Dustin Kohn
4 Mark Wotton - 40 Jamie Fraser
33 Mike Morrison
35 Joey MacDonald
23 Ryan Stone - 15 Dave Gove - 24 Tim Wallace
9 Connor James - 7 Nathan Smith - 18 Jonathan Filewich
17 Kurtis McLean - 8 Tim Brent - 14 Chris Minard
26 Jean-Michel Daoust - 28 Nick Johnson
32 Alain Nasreddine - 6 Ben Lovejoy
20 Paul Bissonnette - 5 Deryk Engelland
13 Alex Goligoski - 2 Ryan Lannon
1 John Curry
30 David Brown
Three Stars of the Game1. Nathan Smith,
WBS - Two goals2. Connor James,
WBS - Goal, two assists3. Ben Walter. BRI
- Goal, AssistNotes: Matthew Spiller, Tim Jackman,
and Steve Regier
- also known as the "Taxi Squad" - were recalled before the game by the Islanders, marking their sixth game in seven nights. Andrew MacDonald, Justin Bourne, Jesse Joensuu, Jason Pitton, Pascal Morency, and Kip Brennan
were the scratches for the Tigers. Brennan is serving the third game of his four game suspension for kneeing Worchester's Riley Armstrong. He'll be eligible to return on April 2 in Manchester. Andy Sertich left the game in the third period after taking a hard open ice hit. Tonight's attendance was 5,079.
Tom Liodice is a member of the NYI Blog Box and he'll be following the Sound Tigers push for the playoffs in the final few weeks of their season. You can visit his blog, The Tiger Track, at www.thetigertrack.com