Cole Bardreau scored twice to keep things close midway through the third period on Saturday, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (3-8-0-0), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, suffered a 5-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack (5-6-1-0) at the XL Center.
It was Bardreau’s fifth career multi-goal performance in the AHL and his first since Apr. 6, 2019, but it wasn’t enough to get Bridgeport its third straight victory against Hartford. Paul Thompson and Justin Richards each scored once and added an assist for the Wolf Pack, tying the season series at two wins apiece.
A string of two power-play goals and a shorthanded tally boosted the Wolf Pack out front 3-0 before the Sound Tigers got on the board midway through the second period. Darren Raddysh opened the scoring at 12:28 of the first with a long drive from the high slot that knuckled past goaltender Jakub Skarek with Otto Koivula in the box for hooking.
Austin Rueschhoff’s second goal in three games against the Sound Tigers came just 4:29 into the second period, doubling Hartford’s lead on its second power-play opportunity. Thompson took a drop-pass from Anthony Greco and skated up-and-down the left wing before twisting the puck to the crease. Rueschhoff closed in and beat Skarek’s blocker to make it 2-0.
Less than six minutes later, Richards scored his first professional goal, shorthanded, with Thompson in the box for cross-checking. Greco earned his second assist with the setup and Richards went blocker-side at 9:58 of the second period.
Back-to-back even strength goals from Bardreau pulled the Sound Tigers within one, including his team-best fifth tally of the season just 12 seconds into the third period. Immediately after Jeff Kubiak won the faceoff backwards, Samuel Bolduc swept the puck off a body in the neutral zone and it deflected behind Hartford’s net. Bardreau quickly gained possession, stepped to the crease and shoveled a backhand shot around goalie Adam Huska to make it 3-2.
Bardreau’s speed also led to his first goal of the game, racing behind Hartford’s defense and onto a puck that Tom Kuhnhackl angled into the offensive zone at 12:26 of the second period. Kuhnhackl fired a shot halfway down the ice from the neutral zone and it bounced hard off the end wall, setting up Bardreau’s one-time shot past Huska from the hash marks.
Hartford received two insurance goals from Thompson and Tarmo Reunanen down the stretch, which generated some breathing room for the host team. At the 13:51 mark, Skarek made an impressive save on Ty Ronning’s initial snap shot from the right wing, but the rebound moved back up the slot where Reunanen scored his third goal of the season. Thompson capitalized on a tough-angle, short-side shot just 2:15 later to complete the 5-2 final.
The Sound Tigers finished the afternoon 0-for-2 on the power play and 4-for-6 on the penalty kill. Skarek (1-6-0) made 32 saves on 37 shots (tying an AHL career high in chances faced), while Huska (2-1-0) turned aside 20 shots on target.
The contest also included one fight when Parker Wotherspoon and Tim Gettinger dropped the gloves at 12:35 of the middle frame.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena next Wednesday, Mar. 31st with a 1 p.m. puck drop against the Providence Bruins. Fans can follow all of the live action via AHLTV or the Sound Tigers Radio Network, beginning with the pre-game show at 12:45 p.m.