The Bridgeport Sound Tigers surrendered three second period goals, and despite a late surge, lost 5-3 in front of the second consecutive sellout crowd at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday. With the loss, the Sound Tigers drop to 5-3-0-0 (10 points), while the Penguins improve to 4-5-0-0 (eight points).
Despite falling behind by three goals on two separate occasions, Sound Tigers Head Coach Scott Pellerin was pleased with the way the players continued to battle until the final buzzer.
“I thought as the game progressed, and guys realized that if they kept it simple, got pucks in deep and worked them low, we totally changed the game,” Pellerin said. “We proved to ourselves that we can handle adversity and battle back and play the way that we need to play to win hockey games.”
The Penguins got on the board first five minutes in courtesy of former Islander and Sound Tiger Dylan Reese. With a Sound Tiger in the penalty box, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton worked the puck around the boards to Kevin Poulin’s right before Phillippe Dupuis spotted Reese all the way across the zone. Dupuis threaded a pass through several Sound Tigers before Reese one-timed the feed past Poulin. Two and a half minutes later, the Sound Tigers knotted the score at 1-1 when Casey Cizikas sprung Nino Niederreiter on a breakaway with a great pass through the neutral zone. Niederreiter stickhandled around a Penguins defenseman and deked goaltender Jeff Zatkoff before beating him five-hole.
Paul Thompson re-claimed the lead for the Penguins in the second period with his fourth goal of the season. During a Sound Tigers attack, Brian Gibbons flipped the puck forward off the glass and out of the Penguins zone. Thompson raced down the left wing boards past everybody before firing a shot off the inside of the post at the eight minute mark.
Thompson scored again at 12:41, giving Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a two-goal advantage. Brian Dumoulin entered the zone down the right wing leading a 2-on-2 rush. Dumoilin passed to Thompson, who skated into the high slot before wristing the puck into the back of the net.
Seconds later, Travis Hamonic and Simon Despres dropped the gloves in the Penguins zone for a lengthy fight. Each player landed a series of punches before Hamonic wrestled Despres down to the ice.
With time winding down in the second period the Penguins’ Robert Bortuzzo took the zone on the right wing side and dropped the puck behind to a trailing Thompson. The Penguins winger shot the puck from the boards, sneaking it between the legs of Poulin to complete the natural hat trick.
Poulin stopped 23-of-27 shots faced before Kenny Reiter took over in goal after the second intermission.
Early in the third period, the Sound Tigers began a comeback attempt. Jordan Hill took a shot from the top of the zone that Zatkoff stopped. But John Persson was in front of the net and cleaned up the rebound for his third goal of the season at the 1:59 mark.
But the Penguins made the score 5-2 just three minutes later when they cleared a puck out of their zone down the middle of the ice. Gibbons won the foot race with a Sound Tigers defenseman and deked Reiter, beating him blocker-side.
Following a scramble in front of Zatkoff later in the period, Brandon DeFazio and Reese squared off behind the Penguins’ goal. The referees intervened after DeFazio pulled Reese’s jersey over his head. Neither player was given a fighting major, but received matching minors for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct.
With time winding down, Brock Nelson scored during 4-on-4 action to cut the deficit to 5-3. Niederreiter’s initial shot in the circle to Zatkoff’s right was blocked, but Donovan took the rebound and slid the pass across to Nelson, whose wrist shot from the high slot beat Zatkoff.
Competing hard until the end, Bridgeport had a 19-5 edge in shots over the final period, and a 40-32 advantage for the game. Pellerin said that he plans on using Sunday’s game as a valuable teaching tool for his young team.
“I think there were a lot of positives,” Pellerin said. “You can look at the energy we generated in the third period and how we responded. Our guys didn’t give up. They didn’t get into a shell. As a young team, it’s hard to grow through that. I thought our team did a lot of growing here tonight to understand what it takes. We’ll have some good teaching moments and clips to show our guys to become a better hockey team.”
The Sound Tigers are back in action Wednesday, Nov. 7, when the Norfolk Admirals visit Webster Bank Arena. Puck drop is at 11:00 a.m.
1. WBS: Paul Thompson
2. WBS: Brian Gibbons
3. WBS: Jeff Zatkoff
David Ullstrom, who left Saturday’s game during the first period with an injury, was not in the lineup.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
22 Nino Niederreiter – 11 Casey Cizikas – 13 Colin McDonald
14 Matt Watkins – 29 Brock Nelson – 42 Brandon DeFazio
40 Mike Halmo – 28 Johan Sundstrom – 23 John Persson
44 Brett Gallant – 16 Sean Backman – 20 Blair Riley
6 Ty Wishart – 3 Travis Hamonic
27 Aaron Ness – 7 Jon Landry
46 Matt Donovan – 25 Jordan Hill
38 Kevin Poulin (starter)
30 Kenny Reiter