HERSHEY, PA - Matt Lorito scored the game-winning goal 73 seconds into overtime on Thursday to lift the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, to a 3-2 victory in a must-win Game 4 against the Hershey Bears at Giant Center.
With the win, the Sound Tigers evened their best-of-five first-round series at 2-2, setting up a winner-take-all Game 5 at Webster Bank Arena on Saturday.
Stephen Gionta and Oliver Wahlstrom each scored in regulation, but Bridgeport never led until Lorito fired home the game-winner off Vitek Vanecek’s glove at 1:13 of overtime. It was Lorito’s first playoff game-winner since May 27, 2017, when he helped the Grand Rapids Griffins to a Game 5 victory in the Western Conference Finals.
Hershey scored the initial goal for the fourth time in as many games with Ryan Sproul’s second goal of the series, following his game-winner on Tuesday. Beck Malenstyn created a flurry of chances in the Sound Tigers’ zone when he hammered a shot above the right circle that Christopher Gibson turned back. Brian Pinho gathered the loose puck and ripped another shot from the right side that Gibson stopped, but Pinho slipped the rebound to the crease and Sproul pushed it in at the 5:47 mark.
Gionta tied the game 2:18 into the second period with his first goal of the postseason on a rebound in front. Vanecek denied Kyle Burroughs on a backhand shot between the circles and the second chance skipped to Gionta, where he muscled home the equalizer.
Steve Whitney took a high-sticking penalty at 15:01 of the middle frame, but Hershey swung the momentum with Jayson Megna’s second shorthanded goal of the series. Chris Bourque had the puck jump over his stick at the right point and Megna charged after it and won a race in transition. He outlasted Bourque to the puck and tucked a forehand shot between Gibson’s pads to make it 2-1 at the 15:22 mark.
Wahlstrom responded with his first professional playoff goal in the opening two minutes of the third period to knot the score at 2-2. Otto Koivula directed a pass to the right point where Burroughs stepped into a slap shot near the blue line. His drive was redirected by Wahlstrom in the low slot and beat Vanecek at 1:56. It was one of Bridgeport’s 17 shots in the third period, but the club’s only tally, despite outshooting the Bears by 12.
In overtime, Lorito settled Josh Ho-Sang’s pass and skated to the left circle where he ripped a shot off of Vanecek’s glove for the dagger.
Bridgeport outshot Hershey 40-24, including 30-11 in the second and third periods combined. Gibson (2-1) made 22 saves, while Vanecek (1-1) turned back 37 shots.