Otto Koivula scored twice after being returned by the New York Islanders earlier in the day, helping the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (2-7-2-1) to a 4-3 win against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (4-2-1-3) at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday.
David Quenneville also collected his first goal and multi-point effort in the AHL, while 19-year-old Jakub Skarek (1-1-0) backstopped his first AHL victory with an impressive 31 saves in the gutsy performance. Simon Holmstrom had Bridgeport’s other goal in the team’s first win on home ice this season.
With the victory, the Sound Tigers snapped their eight-game winless streak and picked up their first two-point night since Oct. 11 at Charlotte. Meanwhile, the Phantoms saw their eight-game point streak come to an end, despite goals from Morgan Frost, Cal O’Reilly and Nic Aube-Kubel.
Bridgeport earned a power play less than a minute into the game when Mikhail Vorobyev was called for hooking. Former Phantom Colin McDonald set up Koivula in the left circle and the second-year forward placed a shot above Alex Lyon’s blocker at 2:16 for his first goal of the season, and Bridgeport’s first of two on the power play. It was Koivula’s initial game back following his first NHL recall with the Islanders. In addition, it was the fastest goal the Sound Tigers have scored his season.
Bridgeport had another power play late in the frame, trying to extend its lead, but came up empty and allowed a Phantoms’ goal in the final minute instead. Maxim Sushko intercepted a pass and entered the offensive zone, where he dropped it off for O’Reilly in the slot. O’Reilly nearly overskated it, but reached back and beat Skarek’s blocker with a wrist shot at 19:17 to tie the game.
The Phantoms earned their first lead of the night less than six minutes into the second period when Aube-Kubel redirected Mark Friedman’s point shot to make it 2-1. It was Aube-Kubel’s second goal in as many days, which came just 5:59 into the frame.
Following a flurry of penalties handed out to both teams in the final six minutes of the period, the Sound Tigers got back into the game with a four-on-three opportunity. Sebastian Aho guided a pass to the left circle, where Quenneville fired a one-time shot off the post and in for his first AHL goal to make it 2-2. The tally, which was also assisted by Matt Lorito for his team-leading seventh point of the year, was Bridgeport’s second power-play strike – the first time the Sound Tigers have scored multiple power play goals in a game this season. Skarek ended the period with several impressive saves on shots from Mark Friedman and Frost.
Lehigh Valley came out strong in the third period and made a statement with a few shifts of solid offensive pressure. Despite some key saves from Skarek and Jeff Kubiak in front as well, Frost continued his hot scoring touch, giving the Phantoms their second lead of the game just 2:53 into the period. He curled above the left hash marks and guided a wrist shot off the post and in to extend his point streak to seven games.
However, the Sound Tigers’ never-give-up attitude continued thanks to their youngest player. 18-year-old Holmstrom took advantage of a long rebound in front of Lyon at 7:35 and scored his second goal in as many games to make it 3-3. Mike Cornell also registered his first point of the season after slapping a shot on target that Lyon kicked back to Holmstrom.
A second fortuitous deflection came less than three minutes later as Koivula scored his second of the night to eventually push Bridgeport to the victory. Parker Wotherspoon floated a lengthy shot at Lyon from the left point and Koivula tipped it in for the winner at 10:06.
The Phantoms pushed to the bitter end with a late power play, but the Sound Tigers held on defensively. Bridgeport finished the game 2-for-4 on the man advantage, while Lehigh Valley was 0-for-4.
Lyon (2-1-2) had 24 saves for the visitors, while Lehigh Valley outshot Bridgeport 34-28.