The Bridgeport Sound Tigers dropped the season opener to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Saturday night, losing by a score of 5-2. Anders Lee and Kirill Kabanov scored second-period goals for Bridgeport, but Chris Conner’s second of the game came at 12:24 of the third and proved to be the game-winner for the Penguins. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored twice more in the third period to blow the game open.
“I thought we were a little slow in the third period,” Sound Tigers head coach Scott Pellerin said. “We made a couple mistakes that they were a step quicker on, and that was the difference tonight.”
The Penguins got on the board first as newly-named captain Tom Kostopoulos won the faceoff from the circle to the left of Anders Nilsson. The puck came to the slot for Scott Harrington, who sent a wrist shot past Nilsson to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, Brett Gallant dropped the gloves with Pierre-Luc Leblond. The fight lasted almost a minute, with both players standing and delivering punch after punch. It ended with both players on their feet, though Gallant got in the lion’s share of quality blows.
Both teams had three power plays in the first period, though the final one for the Sound Tigers carried over into the second. Though they didn’t score on it, the momentum helped Bridgeport tie the score just over a minute into the period. Ryan Strome drove to the net and took a shot that was stopped by Jeff Deslauriers, but the rebound came out front for Anders Lee. He collected it in front and punched it in to tie the score at one.
Just a few minutes later, Lee drove hard to the net and drew a penalty, giving the Sound Tigers another power play and a chance to take the lead. They did just that after Andrey Pedan, who also assited on Lee’s goal, fed a pass across to Dallas Jackson. Jackson spotted Kirill Kabanov in the left circle, gave him a cross-ice pass, which Kabanov one-timed past Deslauriers for the go-ahead goal.
“We started to play our game,” Pellerin said of the second-period flurry. “We started getting pucks deep and working hard and it made a little bit of a difference there.”
But penalties haunted the Sound Tigers all night. Each team had six power plays, and the Penguins converted on two of them.
“We were a little too undisciplined tonight,” Pellerin said. “The referees are going to call all that stuff early in the season and it came back to bite us there a couple of times.”
The parade to the Sound Tigers penalty box came back to haunt them at the end of the second period. With less than a minute to play, Andrey Pedan was called for boarding. Chris Conner picked up a power-play goal at the 19:57 mark after Brendan Mikkelson took a shot from center point. The puck fell right to Conner’s stick, and the winger made a move right out front to beat Nilsson and tie the score at two.
The Penguins scored two quick goals to break the game open late in the third period. In the midst of a two-on-one, Brian Gibbons sent a saucer pass across to Conner in the left circle, whose shot beat Nilsson to make it a 3-2 game. Eleven seconds later, Harry Zolnierczyk walked out of the right corner and slipped a shot through Nilsson’s pads to double the Penguins lead. Later in the third, Zolnierczyk buried another one, this time on a wrist shot from the right circle to give the Penguins a 5-2 lead.
The Sound Tigers are back in action Sunday afternoon with a 3 p.m. game against Norfolk. All children 12 and under will receive a free ticket at the Click It or Ticket Box Office courtesy of Bow Tie Cinemas.