BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (March 25, 2012) – Sound
Tigers defenseman Matt Donovan scored the game-winning power play goal
with 2.8 seconds left in overtime to send 7,573 fans into a frenzy at
Webster Bank Arena as Bridgeport defeated the Connecticut Whale 4-3 on
Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Sound Tigers clinch the season
series with a 6-2-1-1 overall record against the Whale in 2011-12,
including a perfect 5-0-0-0 mark at Webster Bank Arena, and improve to
33-24-3-6 overall. The Whale’s record sits at 33-24-5-5.
Scott Howes opened the scoring for the Sound Tigers 9:09 into the first period. Forward Tyler Gron cycled the puck to Howes behind the net, and Howes chopped at the puck by the right post before knocking it past Whale goaltender Cam Talbot. It marked Howes’ 10th goal of the season, the first professional point for Gron and a 1-0 Sound Tigers lead. Rhett Rakhshani pushed the lead to two 1:54 later. The second-year pro found a rebound in the slot after Aaron Ness’ initial shot was stopped and beat Talbot for his 15th tally of the season to give the Sound Tigers a 2-0 lead.
The Whale responded with two goals of its own to tie the score. Mike Vernace fired a shot through traffic high in the slot to beat Sound Tigers goaltender Kevin Poulin to bring the Whale within a goal at 12:35 of the opening frame, and Tommy Grant deflected Brendan Bell’s point shot past Poulin at 16:47 of the first period to knot the score at two.
Steve Oleksy broke a long scoring drought to put the Sound Tigers in front late in the first. After Talbot denied Tomas Marcinko on a 3-on-1 rush, the fourth line stuck with the play to keep the puck deep in the Whale zone. Donovan’s point shot was stopped by Talbot, but Oleksy backhanded the rebound home for his first career AHL goal in 57 games to give the Sound Tigers a 3-2 lead with 46 seconds left in the first period.
After a scoreless second period in which Poulin made 14 of his 43 saves on the afternoon, Andre Deveaux brought the Whale even with 12:52 left in regulation. Poulin denied Pavel Valentenko on an initial point shot, but Deveaux beat Poulin on the rebound after numerous attempts to tie the score at three. The Whale had an opportunity to win the game late in regulation and early in overtime after Sean Backman was sent off for hooking, but Poulin and the penalty kill unit held strong to keep the score tied.
Kris Newbury was called for hooking at the 4:06 mark of overtime, setting the stage for the Donovan as the Sound Tigers earned just their second power play opportunity of the game. After he missed from the top of the left circle with just over 10 seconds to play, Donovan put the punctuation mark on a huge win as the clock ticked down. The AHL’s leading scorer amongst rookie defenseman took a feed from Mark Katic at the top of the slot and beat Talbot through a Tony Romano screen to win the game for the Sound Tigers.
Poulin’s 43 saves marked the fourth time he eclipsed the 40-save mark this season and gave him first star honors. Talbot made 32 saves in the loss for the Whale. Rakhshani and Donovan each recorded a goal and an assist. Today’s game marked the sixth of 10 games between the two sides that went to overtime.
The Sound Tigers continue their eight-game homestand and look to move into first place in the Northeast Division on Tuesday night when they host the Worcester Sharks at 7:00 p.m.
Persson – Romano – Rakhshani
McNeely – Frischmon – Backman
DiBenedetto – Gron – Howes
Riley – Marcinko – Oleksy
Katic – Donovan
Landry – Ness
de Haan – Wishart