Holmstrom's first two goals of the season propel Bridgeport to shootout win on Star Wars Night
BRIDGEPORT, C onn. - Ben Holmstrom's first two goals of the season came early in the third period on Saturday, helping the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (23-14-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, battle back from a two-goal deficit to beat the Providence Bruins (19-16-6-1) in a shootout, 4-3, at Webster Bank Arena.
Tanner Fritz and Chris Bourque each scored in the four-round shootout, as Bridgeport snapped a three-game losing streak with the thrilling, come-from-behind victory. Kieffer Bellows added his 10th goal of the season in regulation, while Providence received goals from three different scorers.
Between the pipes, Christopher Gibson (11-7-4) stopped 29 of 32 shots, while Dan Vladar (6-8-4) made 12 saves for the Bruins.
Through fast and physical play on both sides, it was evident that the two Atlantic Division rivals were familiar with one another from the get-go. Connor Clifton set the tone early with a hard hit on Ryan Bourque, while Yannick Rathgeb caught Austin Fyten with a textbook hip check midway through the opening frame, knocking him over as he attempted to enter the offensive zone.
Providence opened the scoring at 5:59 of the first period when Jordan Szwarz netted his 14th goal of the season. Following Gibson's impressive pad save on Karson Kuhlman's initial shot, Szwarz pounced on the rebound and made no mistake to make it a 1-0 game.
The Sound Tigers evened the score at the 14:25 mark when Bellows potted his first goal since Dec. 29. After Fritz held the zone on the right half-wall, he found Travis St. Denis with a pass below the goal line. St. Denis carved towards the front of the net and fed Bellows in the slot, who beat Vladar below his blocker, off the post and in.
Late in the period, Otto Koivula was inches away from giving the Sound Tigers their first lead of the game when his backhander nicked the bottom of the crossbar at 18:35. But momentum shifted again when Scott Eansor took a tripping penalty with 23 seconds left, that carried over into the second period.
Just 44 seconds into the middle frame, the Bruins regained their lead on that same power-play opportunity. Paul Carey made a cross-ice pass to Mark McNeill, who wound up from the top of the right circle, froze Gibson, and fired a low slap shot off the post and in to make it 2-1.
Both teams struggled to find consistent offense in the following minutes, and played nearly 10 consecutive minutes without a whistle, beginning at 7:26. However, Providence broke the fluid play when it tacked on a late goal to extend its lead to 3-1.
At 16:27, Kyle Cumiskey threaded a long stretch pass to launch Zach Senyshyn on a breakaway. With time and space, Senyshyn snapped home his 12th goal of the season just over Gibson's glove. The Sound Tigers were outshot 18-8 following 40 minutes of play.
Led by Holmstrom, the Sound Tigers entered the third period firing on all cylinders and quickly got back even. Just 25 seconds in, Parker Wotherspoon directed a point shot on goal and Holmstrom crashed the net, finding the rebound and notching his first goal of the season.
Less than three minutes later, Holmstrom doubled his season total and tied the game at 3-3 when he caused a turnover from Cumiskey in the slot and found twine through Vladar's five-hole.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net throughout the remainder of regulation, so Bridgeport and Providence went to overtime for the fourth consecutive meeting and fifth of seven this season.
Both teams had respective power play opportunities in the extra frame. Bourque took a tripping penalty at 2:13, but the trio of Kyle Burroughs, Mitch Vande Sompel and Holmstrom successfully killed it off. Then with just 39 seconds left, Bourque drew a tripping penalty of his own, but the Sound Tigers could not capitalize either. For the first time since Jan. 2 at Rochester, Bridgeport went to a shootout.
After Bourque and Trent Frederic each scored goals in the shootout preliminary round, Gibson made a save on Carey to setup Fritz in a sudden-death opportunity. Fritz skated in on Vladar and sent a shot five-hole to win the contest.
The Sound Tigers finished the evening 0-for-5 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill. Providence outshot Bridgeport 32-16.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers host the Hershey Bears this Monday at 1 p.m. in the game that was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon (Jan. 20). This change is due to expected inclement weather in Connecticut and Pennsylvania this weekend. All tickets for Sunday's game will be honored on Monday. Fans who cannot attend on Monday may exchange their ticket(s) for any remaining home game during the 2018-19 regular season. Please stop by the Webster Bank Arena Click It or Ticket Box Office for ticket exchanges. Monday's contest will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network, and may be viewed live via AHLTV. Pre-game coverage is set to begin at 12:45 p.m.
Packed Promotional Lineup: The Sound Tigers boast one of their most extensive and wide-ranging promotional schedules ever for the 2018-19 season. The fan-friendly calendar includes the return of popular themes like Hockey and Hops (Mar. 17) and Princess Night (Mar. 30). Regional hockey fans will also be elated for the addition of Hockey Weekend in Connecticut (Feb. 23-24). View the full 2018-19 promotional schedule.
For additional details or to reserve a group outing for any giveaway or theme night, please call the Sound Tigers' front office at (203) 345-2300 ext 7.
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