Hartford, CT - The Whale offense unloaded Friday night at the XL Center, as Connecticut stormed to a 7-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the teams’ eighth meeting of the season. Two goals and an assist from Christian Thomas, as well as a three point night for Kris Newbury, helped to pick up two more points in the standings, keeping the Whale inside the playoff bubble for the time being.
In his 13th year of professional hockey, former Boston University goaltender Rick DiPietro was returned to Bridgeport from the New York Islanders last week. His first American Hockey League game since the 2009-2010 season was less than a warm welcome.
At 2:16 of the first, Bridgeport captain Matt Watkins tied his stick in Benn Ferriero’s arm on the half-boards. On the ensuing power play, Mike Vernace fed Newbury from the point to the right wall. Newbury went to the far hash connecting with Logan Pyett, and Pyett slid the puck to the crease through defender Jon Landry, finding Chris Kreider. Kreider’s sixth goal of the year with the Whale came at 2:59 on the team’s first shot of the game.
The second of two Sound Tiger penalties in the first period would prove costly as well. Thirty-two seconds after Kreider’s goal Matt Donovan sat for cross-checking, and Connecticut made quick work of the power play again. Pyett walked out of the defensive zone, giving a break-in pass to Newbury. Newbury notched his second assist, passing cross-crease to Brandon Segal, who converted for his season’s 16th 24 seconds into the man advantage. Scoring twice on two shots forced Bridgeport to call a timeout. Newbury said afterwards, “We got pucks to the net early and often as possible; a few lucky breaks but I think we hurt [DiPietro’s] confidence a little. We could do better holding them off, but a good win tonight.”
The Whale offense continued to work following successful kill of a too many men on the ice penalty. At the 10:33 mark of the period, Vernace let go a seeing-eye shot from the point, beating DiPietro to the far side after he lost sight of the puck in traffic. Four minutes after that, Thomas broke in and fed Brandon Mashinter in the slot; after taking a return pass, Thomas buried his 14th at 16:29 and Connecticut was up 4-0. “We got our game going early, and maybe got a little too comfortable in the second,” Thomas said.
Even still, the Whale would find the net once more 34 seconds later, when Newbury pursued DiPietro playing the puck behind the net. With a diving effort, Newbury managed to bank the puck in off a Bridgeport defender. After surrendering five goals on 12 shots, DiPietro, the first overall selection of the 2000 NHL Draft, was relieved by Kenny Reiter. “I got a little read on him (DiPietro), tried to give the extra effort; good to get a lucky bounce here and there,” Newbury said.
The second period rolled by less one-sidedly, with teams exchanging penalties and broken plays still dominating the attention of the 6,620 in attendance. Whale netminder Cam Talbot and Reiter held down their respective forts for the majority of the period. Talbot said after the game, “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy; they want any momentum they can pick up for Sunday [the teams will meet again in Bridgeport this week]. We gave them a little too much in the second, but those are some of the prettiest goals we’ve put in all year.” In regards to the remainder of the season, Talbot added, “You’re always thinking playoffs down the stretch, but you’re really just trying to pick up two points every night.”
With 2:11 remaining in the second, Bridgeport finally got on the board. Jack Combs went to the end boards and poked the puck out to the circle. A fadeaway shot, of sorts, from Nathan McIver found its way into traffic and around Talbot to make it a 5-1 game.
Bridgeport started the third with momentum as a result. At 1:56 of the final period, Blair Riley closed the deficit to three, with help from John Persson and McIver. At 7:34, Connecticut turned the puck over to the point. Jon Landry pulled the trigger and had his shot blocked, but Aaron Ness steered a backhand on net that Talbot had a hard time reading. The rebound kicked out and Chad Costello batted it in to make it a 5-3 game.
The Whale would stem the tide later in the period, though, with Mashinter scoring at 12:25 to stretch the lead back to three, and Thomas tacking on his second of the night; a cherry on top with 54.2 seconds to go.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3 at Connecticut Whale 7
Friday, March 1, 2013 - XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 0 1 2 - 3
Connecticut 5 0 2 - 7
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Kreider 6 (Pyett, Newbury), 2:59 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Segal 16 (Newbury, Pyett), 3:55 (PP). 3, Connecticut, Vernace 6 (Yogan, Carroll), 10:33. 4, Connecticut, Thomas 14 (Mashinter), 16:29. 5, Connecticut, Newbury 18 17:03. Penalties-Watkins Bri (hooking), 2:16; Donovan Bri (cross-checking), 3:31; served by Thomas Ct (bench minor - too many men), 4:53.
2nd Period-6, Bridgeport, McIver 1 (Combs, Niederreiter), 17:49. Penalties-Riley Bri (elbowing), 0:40; Newbury Ct (hooking), 6:36; Mashinter Ct (interference), 12:16; Landry Bri (interference), 14:46; Segal Ct (hooking), 19:30.
3rd Period-7, Bridgeport, Riley 6 (Persson, McIver), 1:56. 8, Bridgeport, Costello 3 (Ness, Landry), 7:34. 9, Connecticut, Mashinter 8 (Thomas, Vernace), 12:25. 10, Connecticut, Thomas 15 (Pyett, Ferriero), 19:05 (PP). Penalties-Vernace Ct (holding), 3:09; Kreider Ct (hooking), 12:45; Niederreiter Bri (interference), 18:01.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 13-13-12-38. Connecticut 12-10-8-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 0 / 6; Connecticut 3 / 5.
Goalies-Bridgeport, DiPietro 0-1-0 (12 shots-7 saves); Reiter 0-2-1 (18 shots-16 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 20-22-1 (38 shots-35 saves).
Referees-Jean Hebert (43).
Linesmen-Mike Baker (11), Brent Colby (7).
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