The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have been one of the few teams that have made life difficult on a consistent basis for the Hartford Wolf Pack this season. Tonight, with their season on the line, needing at least a point to keep their playoff hopes alive, Bridgeport put forth their least impressive effort to date, allowing the Pack to roll to a 5-2 win with minimal effort. In the process, the Pack set a franchise record for points in a season with 108, one more than the 1999-2000 Calder Cup-winning team.
The Pack took the lead 6:31 into the first when Tomas Pock broke up a Bridgeport scoring chance and fed Alex Bourret, who’s returned from his 14-game absence looking to prove he deserves a prominent role in the Pack’s playoff run. Bourret carried the puck into the Bridgeport zone and fed Michael Sauer, who’d jumped up on the play to make it a 3-on-2, as he arrived at the right side of the net. Sauer shoveled Bourret’s pass towards the net along the ice, partially fanning on the shot, but the puck glanced off the inside of the right post and into the net to make it 1-0.
Artem Anisimov gave the Pack a 2 goal lead at 18:27 after Hugh Jessiman stripped the puck from a Bridgeport player just inside the Sound Tigers’ zone and passed it down low to Anisimov, who was able to put a backhander up over Bridgeport goaltender Joey MacDonald from the right side of the net. But off the ensuing faceoff Jessiman went from hero to zero when he was whistled for a hooking penalty at 18:49. Less than a minute later, with only 14 seconds to go in the period, Bridgeport cut the Pack’s lead in half when Tim Jackman scored his first of two goals on the power play.
The Sound Tigers carried their momentum into the second, looking more engaged in the game than they had in the first, while the Pack looked a lot like a team who’d clinched their playoff berth weeks ago and was looking ahead to the playoffs. Just before the halfway point of the period, at 9:42, Jackman got his second goal of the game to tie things up at two with a blinding wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat an unscreened David LeNeveu cleanly.
On the next shift, Lauri Korpikoski showed off his tremendous speed by breaking past two Bridgeport defenders to go in on a partial breakaway, drawing a penalty shot when a hook prevented him from getting a clean shot off. On the penalty shot he got in too close to MacDonald before trying to make a move, and was stopped on what amounted to a pretty unimpressive attempt. The period finished with the two teams tied, after the Sound Tigers outworked the Wolf Pack, forcing them to take the only three penalties called in the period, including a bench minor for two many men. The advantage in power play time lead to a 13-7 shot advantage for Bridgeport for the period.
But the Pack came out harder in the third, and somehow managed to make stripping Bridgeport of any hope of making the playoffs look easy. Jessiman got what would ultimately be the game winner at 4:28 after another strong forecheck on which he was able to once again strip Bridgeport of the puck in their zone and feed it down to Byers behind the net. Byers then passed it back out front, where Jessiman was able to get a stick on it and knock it past MacDonald from in close.
Just past the halfway point of the period Ivan Baranka, in his first game back after missing 5 with a shoulder injury, controlled the puck in his own zone and fed Anisimov, who skated down the right boards into the Bridgeport zone, where he was joined on a 2-on-1 by Mitch Fritz. Anisimov threaded a perfect pass through the skates of the defender to Fritz, who swatted the puck in the open side of the net for the first goal of his injury-shortened season. Only a few shifts later the scenario was repeated, this time with Josh Gratton joining Anisimov on the carbon-copy 2-on-1. But this time the pass came a second late and Gratton wasn’t able to get enough on it to get it past MacDonald.
Bridgeport did have a number of good opportunities in the third, forcing LeNeveu to come up with a number of tough saves. With around two minutes remaining, they pulled MacDonald and applied furious pressure in the Pack zone. But with 1:28 remaining, Baranka managed to get a stick on a Bridgeport pass and Anisimov picked up the loose puck before another Bridgeport player could control it, and lofted it out of the zone to a waiting Lauri Korpikoski, who put it around a Bridgeport player and into the empty net from just outside the Bridgeport blue line, sealing the victory and sending the baby Islanders to the golf courses with their big brothers.
- LeNeveu made 27 saves for his 3rd straight win in his 3rd straight start. Since joining the Pack he has a 1.83 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
- Jessiman has 14 points in his last 12 games.
- Korpikoski has 14 points in his last 15 games.
- Anisimov was a team-high +4 on the night and had his second 3 point night in the last 7 games. He has 14 points in his last 16 games.
- Late in the 1st Bobby Sanguinetti blocked a shot with his right foot/leg and hobbled off the ice in obvious pain. He was helped over the bench and assisted down the runway to the locker room, but returned for the second period.
1. Sauer (3) (Bourret, Pock) 6:31
1. Anisimov (16) (Jessiman) 18:27
3. Jessiman (18) (Byers) 4:28
3. Fritz (1) (Anisimov, Baranka) 10:44
3. Korpikoski (23) (Anisimov, Baranka) 18:32 (EN)
Korpikoski – Moore – Parenteau
Byers – Anisimov – Jessiman
Gratton – Ouellette – Bourret
Hutchinson – Potter
Baranka – Sauer
Taylor – Sanguinetti
LeNeveu / Wiikman
1. Hugh Jessiman
2. Tim Jackman
3. Artem Anisimov
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