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The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (15-24-4-1), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, fell to the first-place Hartford Wolf Pack (24-10-4-5) in a 4-1 final at the XL Center on Friday night.
Travis St. Denis recorded his seventh goal of the season in the final five minutes of regulation to break up Igor Shesterkin’s shutout bid, while Matt Beleksey scored twice for the Pack. Hartford netted two goals on the power play, one shorthanded and one at even strength.
Shesterkin (16-4-3) made 30 saves on 31 shots, while Christopher Gibson (5-4-3) turned aside 24 chances in his first outing since Nov. 27. Shesterkin is tied for second in the AHL in wins (16) and continues to lead the league in goals-against-average (1.89).
Hartford netted the first four goals of the night, including Phil Di Giuseppe’s 12th of the year at 16:42 of the opening frame. Following Seth Helgeson’s cross-checking penalty nearly a minute prior, Darren Raddysh cranked a one-time shot towards the net from the left circle, which deflected back to the right hash marks. Di Giuseppe was gifted an open net to shoot at and finished the rebound try with a diving Gibson unable to make an acrobatic stop.
Captain Steven Fogarty made it 2-0 with a shorthanded tally at 5:22 of the second period, the first of three goals in the middle frame for Hartford. With Nick Jones in the box for hooking, Fogarty poked the puck away from Sebastian Aho and raced after it in the Sound Tigers’ zone. He held off Aho’s back check while approaching Gibson and scored his 11th goal of the year, and his third shorthanded.
Beleskey added two more with a pair of goals 2:03 apart in the final five minutes of the second. His first came on the power play at the 15:20 mark from Raddysh and Boo Nieves. His second was at even strength following a takeaway in the neutral zone. Mason Geertsen forced a turnover at center ice and guided a pass to Beleskey, who moved down the left wing and beat Gibson with a heavy wrist shot.
St. Denis got Bridgeport’s lone tally at even strength 15:06 of the third period. Seth Helgeson missed the net with a lengthy shot and Sebastian Aho centered the puck after it kicked off the end wall. A scramble ensured and St. Denis forced it home after Steve Bernier also got a touch.
The Sound Tigers went 0-for-3 on the power play and 1-for-3 on the penalty kill. It was the first time in five games that Bridgeport didn’t score on the man advantage.
Bridgeport outshot Hartford 32-28.
It was Brent Thompson's 500th game as an AHL head coach - all with the Sound Tigers.