PROVIDENCE, RI - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (31-25-5-3), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, suffered a 4-1 loss to the Providence Bruins (38-21-3-2) on Sunday in their final trip to Dunkin’ Donuts Center this season.
Providence set the tone with three goals in the opening 12 minutes to hinder Bridgeport’s chances for the beginning, while John Stevens scored the Sound Tigers’ lone tally in their second straight setback. Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre (22-13-4) was strong all afternoon and made 44 saves on 45 shots, two shy of a season-best for the Sound Tigers. The loss dropped Bridgeport to 5-4-0-1 against Providence this season and the Bruins have now won each of the last four meetings.
In addition, the Sound Tigers maintained their seven-point gap behind the Charlotte Checkers for the Atlantic Division's final playoff spot. Charlotte fell to the Binghamton Devils this afternoon, 4-1, and has played two more games than Bridgeport. The Sound Tigers have 12 games left in the regular season.
Connor Clifton put the Bruins on top just 40 seconds into Sunday’s game when he bounced a long shot off of a Sound Tigers defenseman at doorstep. The Bruins spent most of the opening minute cycling the puck in Bridgeport’s zone before Clifton received a blue-line pass from Tommy Cross at the right point and fired a shot that deflected past Gudlevskis. It was the fourth professional goal for the Quinnipiac University product.
Providence doubled its advantage less than eight minutes later when the Bruins converted on their first power-play opportunity. With Steve Bernier in the box for roughing, Austin Czarnik gathered Kenny Agostino’s pass in the right circle and dragged to the slot before beating Gudlevskis up high with his team-best 21st goal of the season. Paul Postma also earned an assist at the 8:18 mark.
Jordan Szwarz made it 3-0 at the 11:52 mark when he went down to a knee and pushed a low shot towards Gudlevskis that snuck through his five-hole. Czarnik gained possession on the left wing and found Szwarz in the left circle to set up his 19th goal of the season. In addition, Czarnik recorded his 60th point of the season (assist) and is now tied for second among all AHL scorers.
The Sound Tigers picked up steam late in the first period with several quality chances against McIntyre. That momentum spilled over to the middle frame and Stevens made it 3-1 just 16 seconds into the period. Mitch Vande Sompel hammered a shot from the blue line that McIntyre caught with his left pad, but Stevens buried the rebound for his fourth professional goal. Bernier also logged an assist on the tally.
Jakub Zboril capped the scoring late in the second period with his second goal of the season on a snipe from the slot. Josh Hennessy grabbed the puck in the trapezoid and slid a pass to Zboril between the circles, where he beat Gudlevskis on a one-time shot to make it 4-1.
Bridgeport outshot Providence 20-11 in the third period, but neither team found the back of the net.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 0-for-5 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill, while Gudlevskis (11-13-5) tied a season-best with 39 saves. Bridgeport outshot Providence 45-43.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers continue a four-game road trip next Friday with their only visit to the Oncenter War Memorial Arena this season, setting up for a 7 p.m. puck drop against the Syracuse Crunch. Fans can follow all of the live action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHL Live.com, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m.