Look, that team in white is a team of professionals. Bridgeport has been there. More often than it’d like to remember, playing out the string in March. The Sound Tigers needed to win this one.
They did. Jaro Halak kept it scoreless early. They broke through in the second period.
“In the first period, we were a little slow at the beginning,” Halak said. “As the game went on, we were playing better and better. Even though they scored a couple of goals, we stayed on course and stuck with the game plan.”
Bridgeport hit the 30-shot magic number that Thompson mentioned last night. It wasn’t a brilliant performance early — Hartford had three shots on the first shift — but it recovered nicely. Halak liked the effort in the second and third. Bridgeport got good shots on the power play.
“Our speed, our puck management was better,” Brent Thompson said.
They did what they had to do. Hartford, with 15 games to go, is mathematically out of the playoff race.
For Bridgeport, it’s got five potentially crazy weeks to go.
Hershey came back to beat Providence, so it’s a three-way tie at 77 points. In strictly points-accumulated terms, Hershey has the tiebreaker with 33 real wins, then Bridgeport with 32, then Providence with 31. In percentage terms, Bridgeport’s in third on that same tiebreaker (both teams with 15 to play) and Hershey behind in fifth (14 left).
Hartford had assorted odd-man rushes. None really went anywhere — most memorable was Robin Kovacs carrying up the right wing with all three Bridgeport forwards trapped, a five-on-two through the neutral zone, on which it sounded like every teammate was calling for the puck and the entire play broke down — but they were there, more than Bridgeport usually allows.
“That was a factor of them activating and beating a guy up the ice,” Thompson said. “Our tracking, our gaps were pretty good. … They want to run-and-gun and trade chances. We don’t want that. We’d start to lose F3, and then we’re chasing.” But he liked the way they recovered from that. Bridgeport scored its second goal after a Hartford three-on-two, so the Sound Tigers may’ve actually produced more of Hartford odd-man rushes than the Wolf Pack did.
Halak’s third AHL assist. He had one in every NHL season from 2012-13 to 2015-16. First goalie assist for the Sound Tigers since Nov. 14, 2015, Christopher Gibson at Hershey. First one at home since Nov. 8, 2014, Kevin Poulin.
Devon Toews came up in an assortment of ways, so I asked how he has managed to stay consistent and dodge the college-player cliché of hitting the wall. “I think I learned it in college, actually, to be so consistent,” Toews said. “You play 40 games, and you’ve got to be so consistent over 40 games because every game matters so much. That’s translated. I think I learned how to recover, how to rest, and it translated well to the pro game so far. The staff at Quinnipiac really helped me a lot with that.”
Bracken Kearns’ 500th professional point on his goal, his second in two nights.
I get it. (Good crowd.)
Bridgeport is off Monday and scheduled to practice Tuesday. Whether I make it or not, we’ll see. More as warranted.