BRIDGEPORT, CT - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (30-23-5-3), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, came all the way back from a four-goal deficit in the opening six minutes to score five unanswered goals in a 5-4 victory against the Springfield Thunderbirds (28-29-4-1) at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday.
Ryan Bourque (one goal, one assist), Casey Bailey (one goal, one assist), Kane Lafranchise (two assists) and Josh Ho-Sang (two assists) all recorded a multi-point effort, while Kristers Gudlevskis (11-11-5) made 14 saves in relief to backstop Bridgeport to its sixth win in seven games.
Parker Wotherspoon, Connor Jones and Travis St. Denis also found the back of the net as the fifth-place Sound Tigers climbed to within five points of the Atlantic Division’s final playoff spot, with one game in hand on the fourth-place Charlotte Checkers.
The win snapped Springfield’s nine-game point streak (6-0-3-0) and improved Bridgeport to 4-5-0-0 in the season series.
The T-Birds looked unstoppable early on and opened the contest with four tallies in the first 5:18, beginning with Francois Beauchemin's third goal of the season at the 2:32 mark. Ed Wittchow created the opportunity with a shot from the left wing that skimmed the post and fooled starting goaltender Eamon McAdam, before it trickled to the center of the crease for Beauchemin's tap-in tally.
Less than a minute later, Dryden Hunt used a 2-on-1 rush to double Springfield’s lead. Hunt and Sam Kurker teamed up on a back-and-forth sequence of passes before Hunt charged to the crease and redirected home his 16th goal of the season, while crashing into McAdam at 3:14.
Curtis Valk added his 16th goal while on the power play for a Lafranchise interference penalty at the 5:08 mark. Valk directed the puck across McAdam's crease before it skipped off a Bridgeport skate and ricocheted in. Play was not initially stopped for the goal, which had to be confirmed with an officials review during the next stoppage.
Exactly 10 seconds later, the T-Birds made it 4-0 and chased McAdam from the game when Wittchow skated down the left wing and threw a centering-pass to the crease, where Jayce Hawryluk nudged it home for his 10th of the year.
The Sound Tigers started to chip away at 8:44 of the opening period when Jones beat Harri Sateri for the first time to trim the deficit to three. From an angle that seemed harmless, Jones skated along the left half boards and wristed a shot towards the net that sailed past the blocker of Sateri for his seventh goal of the season. Michael Dal Colle and Ho-Sang each earned an assist.
Bailey followed at 14:07 of the first period and scored his 13th goal to make it 4-2. Following a Springfield turnover deep in its own zone, Bourque forced a pass to Lafranchise at the right point, where he fired a slap shot that Bailey tipped in front.
Bridgeport got to within one at 12:12 of the middle frame courtesy of St. Denis, who scored his fourth goal in the last six games and his team-leading 17th of the season. With Hunt in the box for hooking, Andre Benoit placed the puck on a tee for St. Denis at the top of the left circle and the second-year forward slapped a one-timer past Sateri to end the goalie’s afternoon. St. Denis now has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in his last 20 games.
The Sound Tigers tied the game in the final three minutes of the second period when Wotherspoon joined the party and netted his fourth goal in the last eight days. Ho-Sang found Wotherspoon streaking through the T-Birds’ zone and towards the net, setting up for a wrist shot that flew above the shoulder of relief goaltender Sam Montembeault. It was Wotherspoon’s seventh goal of the season at the 17:22 mark.
Exactly 14 seconds later, Bourque gave Bridgeport its first lead of the contest in what ended up being the game-winner. John Stevens settled the puck at the top of the right circle and filtered a pass to Bourque below it, where he snuck a low wrist shot between Montembeault’s legs to put the Sound Tigers on top 5-4.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 1-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill, and outshot Springfield 29-21. McAdam made three saves on seven shots in 5:18 of a no decision, while Montembeault (13-18-1) stopped six of eight shots in Springfield’s loss. Sateri turned back 18 of the 21 chances he faced in 32:12.
The contest also included one fight at 17:40 of the second period, which led to game misconducts to both Seth Helgeson and Wittchow. The duo dropped the gloves immediately following a faceoff at center ice.
With the win, the Sound Tigers improved to 10-0-0-0 when scoring five or more goals in a game.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to action this Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Rochester Americans at Webster Bank Arena. Take advantage of $1 hot dogs and $5 draft beers at all first-level concession stands, presented by Hummel Brothers and Budweiser. Fans can follow all of the live action on the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHL Live , beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m.