Pack Pushed to Shootout but Hold on for 5-4 OT Win
Hartford, CT, February 7, 2018 - The Hartford Wolf Pack let a four-goal third-period lead slip away Wednesday at the XL Center against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but recovered to win 5-4 in overtime, in a school-day morning-start game.
Ryan Sproul's second goal of the game at 3:51 of overtime gave the Wolf Pack the victory, after the Sound Tigers had scored twice in the final 1:31 of regulation, with goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis on the bench for an extra attacker, to tie the game.
"We gave up some real good opportunities that cost us, giving away a point in our own division," Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge said. "But we'll take the positives out of it, and make sure that when the pressure's on like that, we're finishing out the games."
Lias Andersson had a goal and two assists for the Wolf Pack, and Scott Kosmachuk added a goal and an assist. Former Wolf Pack Ryan Bourque and Steve Bernier had a goal and an assist apiece for Bridgeport.
Andersson and Kosmachuk combined to set up the winning goal, with Andersson passing from the left boards to send Kosmachuk up the slot. He then dished to Sproul at the bottom of the left circle, and Sproul one-timed the puck into the net.
Wolf Pack goaltender Alexandar Georgiev had blanked the Sound Tigers through the first 40 minutes, but Mitch Vande Sompel got Bridgeport on the scoreboard only 2:03 into the third, and Bourque scored just 26 seconds later, cutting what was a 4-0 Hartford advantage in half.
Georgiev held the fort until Bridgeport pulled Gudlevskis with 2:20 left in the third. Bernier then brought the Sound Tigers within one at 18:29, flicking in a shot from the left side of the slot, after a bid from the point by Parker Wotherspoon deflected off of Bourque.
The Sound Tigers got Gudlevskis to the bench again with just under a minute remaining, and John Stevens got the tying goal 48.5 seconds showing on the clock. He tracked down the rebound of a Michael Dal Colle shot in the left circle, and snapped it past Georgiev on the glove side.
The Wolf Pack had a big first period, jumping out to a 3-0 lead, and all three goals came within a span of 3:39.
Andersson got the burst going at 7:58, with his first North American pro goal. Ryan Gropp fed the puck to Ryan Graves at the left point, and his slap shot was deflected on net. Sound Tiger starting goaltender Christopher Gibson made that save, but the rebound came to Andersson, and he quickly slid it into the net from Gibson's left.
"I like Lias' game a lot right now," said McCambridge of Andersson, the 19-year-old Swedish import who was playing his sixth game since joining the Wolf Pack. "I think he's skating well, he's learning to be in areas of the ice that are a little bit different from over in Europe. I liked his goal, it was a hard-working goal, going to the front of the net, and he's been playing really good hockey for us."
Only 57 seconds after Andersson's tally, at 8:55, Kosmachuk made it 2-0 Wolf Pack with an unassisted goal. Kosmachuk intercepted a Kyle Burroughs pass and, using teammate Adam Tambellini as a decoy, got Gibson to lean to his right and popped the puck past him on the other side.
Then, on the game's first power play at 11:37, with Bourque off for hooking, Sproul scored his first of the game, and fourth in four games, to make it 3-0. After Andersson won a faceoff, a shot by Neal Pionk from the right point was blocked, and the puck caromed right to Sproul at the left point. He immediately pounded it back at the net, and the shot eluded Gibson on the glove side.
Bridgeport lifted Gibson at that point, after three saves, inserting Gudlevskis, who stopped three Wolf Pack shots before the end of the period.
The Wolf Pack upped their lead to 4-0 just 3:37 into the second period, on a power-play goal by Filip Chytil. Tambellini played the puck from the left-wing wall across to Chytil at the opposite faceoff dot, and his one-timer deflected off of the stick of Bridgeport defenseman Seth Helgeson and into the top corner on Gudlevskis' stick side.
"I liked the way we managed the puck in the first two periods," McCambridge said. "I thought we did a real good job on our breakouts, coming through the neutral zone together, and used our speed to create some offensive scoring chances that we were able to get ourselves on the board with. As the game moved forward, the third period we know that they are going to come out with a strong push, and we need to be able to manage that momentum, put pucks in areas that you can get them back and give yourself a chance to play a couple shifts in the offensive zone."
The victory, the Wolf Pack's sixth straight home win, lifted Hartford to two games over the .500 mark, at 22-20-4-3 for 51 points, and to within two points of the 23-17-5-2 Sound Tigers in the Atlantic Division standings.
The Wolf Pack start a stretch of six straight games, and eight out of ten, on the road this Friday night, February 9, when they travel to Syracuse to battle the Crunch. Faceoff is 7:00 PM, and all of the action can be heard live on News Radio 1410 WPOP, and on-line at www.newsradio1410.com and iHeartRadio. Video streaming is available at www.ahllive.com.
The next home game for the Wolf Pack is Friday, February 23, a 7:15 PM contest vs. the Hershey Bears. As at all Friday-night Wolf Pack home games, fans can enjoy $1 hot dogs and $2 beers through the start of the second period, presented by Dave & Buster's.
Tickets for all Wolf Pack 2017-18 home games are on sale now at the Agera Energy Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499.
Season ticket information for the Wolf Pack's 2017-18 AHL season can be found on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com. To speak with a representative about all of the Wolf Pack's many attractive ticketing options, call (855) 762-6451.
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