Sound Tigers swept by Providence; playoff hopes dangle
BRIDGEPORT — Only 120 minutes ago in game time, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers controlled their own playoff fate. Two wins against Providence this weekend, and they had an inside track to finish third.
They haven’t scored for the last 112 of those minutes, including Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Bruins at Webster Bank Arena, and now their hopes to play beyond next weekend will rely on other teams.
“The first two periods weren’t what we wanted them to be,” captain Ben Holmstrom said. “I think our level in the third is the way we’ve got to play. We weren’t at a high enough pace the first two periods.”
Providence sat on its two-goal lead in the third, and the Sound Tigers outshot the Bruins 18-4. It wasn’t enough to beat Malcolm Subban, who got the shutout a night after Zane McIntyre beat Bridgeport 2-1 in Providence.
The Sound Tigers are three points behind the fourth-place Hershey Bears. The top four in each AHL division make the playoffs. They’re also five behind both the Bruins and Lehigh Valley.
Bridgeport has three games left. Hershey has two. If the Bears win them both, the Sound Tigers will need either the Phantoms or Bruins to lose all their remaining games.
Providence jumped on top Saturday with a Danton Heinen goal at 10:52 of the first period. Bridgeport had some good shifts, not least on that shift, when Subban stopped Michael Dal Colle cutting across the slot before the Bruins came the other way.
“You can play games where you’re not necessarily at your best right away, but if you get a timely goal, it can definitely shift the momentum,” Holmstrom said. “You can create your own luck sometimes.”
It didn’t happen Saturday, and the Sound Tigers were chasing from there.
“I was very disappointed, especially in the first 40 minutes,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said, “at the lack of intensity, the lack of passion, the lack of effort. That’s three key pieces of the success of our hockey team.”
Matt Grzelcyk made it 2-0 on a five-on-three at 1:37 of the second, with Bracken Kearns off for a trip and Patrick Cullity locked up after his clear from his own zone flew all the way over the far end boards, a delay-of-game minor.
Jake DeBrusk’s empty-netter sealed it soon after Subban stopped Carter Verhaeghe in the slot.
“There were times where we were really dominant,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “There were times we weren’t good enough.”
So Bridgeport will need help. Its next two games are against non-playoff teams, Hartford on Sunday in the home finale and at Springfield on Friday. The Sound Tigers’ regular-season finale is next Saturday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, whose magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division is 1.
Hershey closes with a game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday and a home game against Providence the next night. Wins in both would guarantee a finish ahead of the Sound Tigers.
Bridgeport still controlled its own destiny until Saturday’s loss. Like Friday against goalie McIntyre, Bridgeport didn’t always get lots of traffic around Subban.
“At this time of year, you’ve got to get to the paint (the goal crease) if you want to score,” Pulock said. “We’ve scored one goal in the last two games. We can’t win like that.”
It has been 112 minutes, 11 seconds since Devon Toews’ goal early in Friday’s loss.
email@example.com; twitter.com/fornabaioctp; blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio
BRUINS 3, SOUND TIGERS 0
Providence1 1 1—3
Bridgeport0 0 0—0
First Period — 1, Providence, Heinen 14 (Szwarz, Cross), 10:52. Penalties — McAvoy, Pro (hooking), 16:16.
Second Period — 2, Providence, Grzelcyk 6 (Mueller, Czarnik), 1:37 (pp). Penalties — Kearns, Bpt (tripping), :27; Cullity, Bpt (delay of game), 1:24; Szwarz, Pro (tripping), 13:07.
Third Period — 3, Providence, DeBrusk 17, 19:21 (en). Penalties — Hargrove, Pro (roughing), 6:35; Cullity, Bpt (roughing), 6:35; Cross, Pro (tripping), 12:20; O’Gara, Pro (cross-checking), 16:20; Hargrove, Pro (high-sticking), 19:47.
Shots on goal — Providence 12-10-4—26. Bridgeport 10-7-18—34.
Power play opportunities — Providence 1 of 2, Bridgeport 0 of 5.
Goaltenders — Providence, Subban 11-13-5 (34 shots-34 saves). Bridgeport, McAdam 14-6-0 (25-23).
Attendance — 4,888. Referees — Garon, Reneau. Linesmen — N.Briganti, Galvin.