SPRINGFIELD, MA – Bracken Kearns scored twice, including his 200th professional goal on Wednesday, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (17-14-0-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, notched a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Springfield Thunderbirds (13-12-4-2) at the MassMutual Center.
Bridgeport erased a pair of one-goal deficits in regulation and received a 30-save performance from goaltender Jaroslav Halak in his Sound Tigers debut, and his first AHL game since Feb. 24, 2008. However, the Sound Tigers dropped their first contest beyond regulation this season (8-1) and their fifth straight game on the road overall.
After a scoreless opening frame, Springfield grabbed its first lead at 6:42 of the second period courtesy of Kyle Rau. In his first game back after playing 24 contests with the Thunderbirds’ NHL affiliate, the Florida Panthers, Rau collected a turnover behind Bridgeport’s defense and traveled straight to Halak. He ripped a forehand shot off the crossbar and in over Halak’s right shoulder for his first goal of the season.
Kearns responded at 6:46 of the third period with a milestone tally, on the power play, to even the game. Josh Ho-Sang created the attack with a centering feed to Andrew Rowe in the slot, where he hammered a one-timer on target. Goaltender Mike McKenna made the initial save, but deflected the rebound straight down, allowing Kearns to muscle it across the goal line. Springfield’s Mike Downing was in the penalty box during the 5-on-4 tally, seconds after a 5-on-3 concluded. With an assist, Rowe improved his point streak to four games, while Kearns’ goal was the 200th of his pro career.
Mackenzie Weegar delivered his team-leading seventh goal of the season at 14:29 of the third period to put the Thunderbirds back in front. At even strength, Weegar got a pass from Jayce Hawryluk and skated to the right circle where he funneled a perfectly placed snap shot over Halak’s blocker.
Not to be denied, the Sound Tigers fought back to force overtime courtesy of Kearns’ second goal of the period in the final half minute. Kyle Burroughs was called for slashing at the 18:18 mark, but head coach Brent Thompson pulled Halak for the extra attacker shortly after, which led to the shorthanded tally. McKenna kept Springfield on top with several key saves in the closing stages, but allowed the equalizer when Steve Bernier sent a slap-pass to the doorstep for a Kearns redirection at the 19:38 mark.
Following a scoreless overtime session that saw each team go 0-for-1 on the power play, Springfield’s Jared McCann and Tim Bozon each found the back of the net in a six-round shootout. Only Andrew Rowe scored for the Sound Tigers.
Bridgeport finished the game 1-for-8 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, while McKenna made 28 saves in 65 minutes and five more in the shootout.
The Thunderbirds outshot the Sound Tigers 33-30.