ALLENTOWN, PA - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (28-18-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, scored twice on the power play and erased a third-period deficit to pocket one point on Friday, but suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (27-19-3-2) at PPL Center.
Matt Lorito had two points (one goal, one assist) and Travis St. Denis tied the game in the final five minutes of regulation, while T.J. Brennan capped a two-point night (one goal, one assist) with the overtime winner at 3:20 of the extra frame. Otto Koivula had the other goal for the Sound Tigers and extended his point streak to five games in the process.
Despite the setback, Bridgeport remains second in the Atlantic Division with 63 points in 53 games, two points ahead of the third-place Providence Bruins.
The Sound Tigers came out strong and led by two after the first 20 minutes, receiving first-period goals from Koivula and Lorito. Bridgeport opened the scoring with Koivula’s fourth power-play goal when he capitalized on a Phantoms’ bench minor for too many men at the 16:15 mark. Sebastian Aho launched a slap shot from above the left circle that goaltender Brian Elliott kicked back, but Koivula gathered the rebound on the right side, turned, and converted a wrist shot for his 16th goal of the year – tied for the team lead. The 20-year-old rookie also extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.
Less than two minutes later, Lorito made it 2-0 when he recorded his first goal with Bridgeport in just his second game. Parker Wotherspoon received Kyle Burroughs’ pass on the left wing and directed the puck over to Lorito, who found daylight on a blast near the right circle.
The Phantoms bounced back with three straight tallies to earn their first lead of the contest, beginning with Greg Carey’s first of two goals at 13:51 of the second period. Following a penalty against Bridgeport’s bench for too many men on the ice, Carey set up above the right circle and one-timed Brennan’s feed past Jeremy Smith for his 12th power-play goal of the season (tied for the league lead) to make it 2-1.
Lehigh Valley added two more goals early in the third period to take the lead and put the Sound Tigers on their heels. Carey tied the game just 34 seconds in when he beat Smith’s blocker shortly after Corban Knight’s faceoff win. Knight forced the puck to Chris Connor near the hash marks, who led it on for Carey in front. Less than three minutes later, Colin McDonald deflected David Schlemko’s long shot from the blue line to make it 3-2. Schlemko held the puck in at the right point and hammered a slap shot at the target before McDonald altered it in front for his seventh tally of the season at the 3:11 mark.
The Sound Tigers controlled much of the third period and outshot the Phantoms 12-6 in the frame, but couldn’t tie it up until 15:49 when St. Denis polished off a phenomenal individual effort. The third-year forward received a pass from Mitch Vande Sompel, skated over the blue line, danced past several Phantoms near the slot, and backhanded a brilliant shot past Elliott’s blocker. It was his 12th goal of the season and third on the power play, which came with one second left on Brennan’s slashing minor.
Both teams enjoyed odd-man rushes in overtime, but Brennan’s conversion ended the game, as he led a 3-on-1 charge over the blue line and down the left wing. Brennan never passed the puck and instead, buried his eighth goal of the season with a short-side opportunity.
Smith (14-9-3) finished the game with 23 saves, while Elliott (1-0-0) had 36 stops in his first AHL outing since 2013. Bridgeport finished the contest 2-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill, while the Sound Tigers also outshot the Phantoms 39-27.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena tomorrow night for their final game against the Hartford Wolf Pack this season. The puck drops at 7 p.m. and the rivalry tilt will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network, and may be viewed live via AHLTV. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:45 p.m.