Sound Tigers take penalties, blow lead in home opener
BRIDGEPORT — After a near-textbook first period Saturday, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers looked headed toward a win in their home opener.
Possession and penalties turned against them in the second period, and the Rochester Americans spoiled the afternoon for the Webster Bank Arena crowd, beating Bridgeport 4-3 on a Victor Oloffson goal with 59.4 seconds left in regulation.
“We’ve got to play 60 minutes. The penalties were kind of what killed us,” said Bridgeport’s Connor Jones, whose line was near-dominant in the first and who scored the first goal 100 seconds into the game.
“We’re built to play five-on-five. We’ve got four good lines and six good (defensemen).”
The first three Americans goals came either on the power play or seconds after a Bridgeport penalty expired. The Sound Tigers got four power plays in the third, including a two-minute five-on-three late, but didn’t score.
And when Bridgeport couldn’t get the puck deep with just over a minute to go, the Amerks turned play around. Olofsson skated left to right and lifted a hard backhander from the right side that went off goalie Christopher Gibson’s glove into the net.
“Discipline is a key factor in the game. To kill that many penalties, it’s a lot of work on our killers,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “It’s taxing. It takes momentum away, takes the guys who don’t play the kill out of the game.
“To me, maybe it was one of those challenges where we lost a little focus.”
The teams meet again here Sunday at 3 p.m.
For 30 minutes, the Sound Tigers were opportunistic. Jones scored on a rebound off the rush early. Travis St. Denis gave them a 2-1 lead off a Rochester turnover. Steve Bernier made it 3-1 after a Bridgeport penalty kill midway through the second off another turnover.
But the Amerks had taken momentum away and cut into the lead before intermission.
“In the second, we thought it’d be easy a little bit. We definitely took our foot off the gas,” Jones said. “They took it to us. ... We just took too many penalties in the second. You’re almost playing from behind.”
Bridgeport had to kill two penalties in the first (Kevin Porter, alone behind the defense, scored on the first), four in the second (the Sound Tigers got through them clean, though C.J. Smith, who’d missed an open net earlier, was open behind the defense just after one ended) and two in the third (which overlapped, and Alex Nylander scored on the five-on-three).
“You know they’re going to push back,” Thompson said. “Knowing they’re going to get that pushback, we’ve got to be prepared. They did. We were on our heels a bit.
“We took some penalties that could go either way, you could call, could not call. The situation was we took penalties.”
Bridgeport had a late chance to reclaim the lead, getting Mike Sislo open for a one-timer in the left circle on the two-man advantage. His stick broke.
“I think we can definitely be a little more clean with our execution, but we’ve also had some really good opportunities,” Sislo said. “A stick breaks on one. We hit a knob or a pipe on another. Things can look a lot different. We’ve got to clean up our execution and bear down on our opportunities.”
Attendance was 4,272 for the 18th home opener.
The parent New York Islanders announced in the morning that they’d signed veteran centerman Stephen Gionta, whose 2017-18 season with Bridgeport was curtailed by knee and shoulder injuries.
Gionta becomes a candidate to come to the Sound Tigers again if the Islanders are fully healthy. He’d be a seventh veteran, two more than the AHL allows to play on a given night. Captain Ben Holmstrom sat out Saturday for the third game in a row to start the season because of that rule.
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AMERICANS 4, SOUND TIGERS 3
Rochester1 1 2—4
Bridgeport2 1 0—3
First Period — 1, Bridgeport, Jones 1 (Wotherspoon, Ho-Sang), 1:40. 2, Rochester, Porter 1 (Redmond, Pilut), 3:07 (pp). 3, Bridgeport, St. Denis 1 (Toews), 11:25. Penalties — Jones, Bpt (hooking), 2:01; O’Regan, Roc (hooking), 15:37; St. Denis, Bpt (high-sticking), 18:33.
Second Period — 4, Bridgeport, Bernier 2 (Fritz, Dal Colle), 9:53. 5, Rochester, C.J. Smith 3 (Guhle, Bailey), 15:30. Penalties — Dal Colle, Bpt (hooking), 7:25; Bellows, Bpt (hooking), 10:42; St. Denis, Bpt (cross-checking), 13:24; Bridgeport bench, served Ho-Sang, 16:07.
Third Period — 6, Rochester, Nylander 1 (Olofsson, Redmond), 5:34 (pp). 7, Rochester, Olofsson 2 (O’Regan), 19:00. Penalties — Redmond, Roc (cross-checking), :43; Burroughs, Bpt (cross-checking), 4:21; Helgeson, Bpt (slashing), 5:00; O’Regan, Roc (holding), 12:42; Bailey, Roc (roughing), 13:44; C.Bourque, Bpt (roughing), 13:44; Criscuolo, Roc (tripping), 15:46; Nylander, Roc (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:46.
Shots on goal — Rochester 8-13-7—28. Bridgeport 12-5-6—23.
Power play opportunities — Rochester 2 of 8, Bridgeport 0 of 5.
Goaltenders — Rochester, Wedgewood 1-2-0 (23 shots-20 saves). Bridgeport, Gibson 0-2-0 (28-24).
Attendance — 4,272. Referees — R.Anderson, J.Williams. Linesmen — K.Briganti, N.Briganti.