BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – For the second straight night, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers mounted a third period comeback, but it fell short once again, as they fell 6-4 to the Portland Pirates.
The game started out with a snarl, with Bridgeport’s Harry Zolnierczyk and Portland’s Evan Oberg getting into a fight just 1:43 into the game. The Pirates received two early power plays, but were unable to convert on the opportunities. They had a good chance to take the lead about halfway through the first frame, but Bridgeport’s Johan Sundstrom kept the puck out of the wide-open cage, preserving the scoreless tie.
The Sound Tigers league-leading power play unit converted on their first chance at 10:59, with Portland’s Justin Hodgman in the sin-bin for high-sticking. Bridgeport’s Brett Gallant positioned himself at Portland’s doorstep, tapping in an excellent pass from John Persson to give the Sound Tigers the 1-0 lead.
The Pirates would respond just over four minutes later, as a point shot from Joel Hanley deflected off of Alexandre Bolduc and trickled past Bridgeport netminder Kent Simpson. The goal was reviewed, but ultimately counted, tying the game at one.
Bridgeport’s Colton Gillies took a penalty for covering the puck with his hand late in the period and Portland’s Oberg rifled the puck into the net off of a nice one-time pass from Hanley, giving the Pirates a 2-1 advantage. The power play goal was the first in the Pirates’ last 32 opportunities.
The first period would end with that same score and the teams skating 4-on-4, thanks to a pair of coincidental minors.
The Pirates would score again just 39 seconds into the period, when Henrik Samuelsson knocked in a one-time pass from Jordan Martinook. Martinook worked his way out from behind the net and delivered the puck onto Samuelsson’s tape, giving Simpson no chance to make the stop. The goal was Samuelson’s ninth of the season.
The Sound Tigers nearly tied the game while on the power play about six minutes into the second period, but an excellent lunging glove save by Portland goaltender Mike McKenna kept the Pirates lead at a pair.
The onslaught would continue as Portland’s Francis Wathier was able to whack home a juicy rebound for his first goal as a Pirate, increasing the Sound Tigers deficit to three. The goal was a result of a big booming Phillip Samuelsson slap shot that Simpson was unable to corral.
After two periods, the score remained 4-1. The second frame would end with a bang, however, as members of both teams rushed into the corner at the buzzer and engaged in a brawl. Bridgeport’s Kael Mouillierat would receive a 10-minute misconduct and two minutes for roughing, and Portland’s Jordan Szwarz received a 10-minute misconduct and a four minute double-minor for roughing, resulting in a Bridgeport power play to start the third period.
The Pirates would kill off the penalty, but Bridgeport would claw its way back into the game as Persson converted a cross-crease pass from Alan Quine for the score. The goal would reduce the Portland lead to two, and give the Sound Tigers some added zip to their step.
The momentum started to shift in favor of the Sound Tigers at this point, with the team getting a number of good scoring chances. All of the momentum disappeared, however, when Wathier fired a rocket of a shot right off of the faceoff, returning the Pirates lead to three.
The Sound Tigers would once again reduce their deficit to two when Quine fired a rebound off a sprawling McKenna, and would get even closer to tying the game when Quine scored again on a 2-on-0, his second goal in 1:08. A series of nifty passes between Quine and Zolnierczyk gave the Bridgeport center an open net, and he buried the puck without hesitation.
The Sound Tigers would face a daunting challenge when the Pirates received a 5-on-3 advantage at 12:24, but prove to be up to the task. Hodgman appeared to get injured at 14:15, leaving blood on the ice, but both he and Bridgeport’s Lukas Sutter, the one who appeared to injure Hodgman, would receive five-minute majors and game misconducts.
The Sound Tigers comeback bid would fall short when Brandon Gormley scored an empty-net goal for the Pirates, making the score 6-4 and putting the icing on the cake.
Simpson made 15 saves in the loss and McKenna made 26 for the victory.
The Sound Tigers return to action Friday when the visit the Syracuse Crunch. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.
Notes: Lukas Sutter made his AHL debut for the Sound Tigers…It was Superhero Night, with Batman performing the ceremonial puck drop…Alan Quine scored four points (two goals and two assists)…Both teams combined for 92 penalty minutes.