By Brian Ring
Hartford, CT, November 18, 2011 – Defenseman Brendan Bell’s breakaway goal with 6.8 seconds left in overtime gave the Connecticut Whale a 3-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Friday night at the XL Center.
The win pushed the Whale (8-4-1-2) into first place in the Northeast Division with 19 points.
David Ullstrom had two goals for the Sound Tigers, while Bridgeport goaltender Kevin Poulin made 42 saves on the night. Carl Hagelin and Francois also scored for Connecticut, and Tim Erixon had two assists.
“It was a good finish,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander of the winning goal, on which Bell converted a lead pass from Mats Zuccarello. “It was a pretty big play by a couple pretty talented players and an exciting finish for the fans that made it out tonight.”
Poulin made a number of excellent stops, and kept the game scoreless in the first period with sprawling saves on Kris Newbury and Ryan Bourque at the 2:53 mark of the opening stanza.
Connecticut also killed off three Bridgeport power-plays in the period.
The Sound Tigers struck first at 6:10 of the second period, breaking through on the power-play on Newbury’s third minor of the night. Ullstrom put a shot from the circle past Whale goaltender Chad Johnson (15 saves), extending Ullstrom’s goal-scoring streak to seven straight games. Matt Donovan and Dylan Reese both assisted on the goal.
The Whale tied it at 13:21 of the second period, as Hagelin deflected an Erixon shot past Poulin for the equalizer. Jordan Owens also received an assist on the goal.
Bouchard gave Connecticut a 2-1 lead just a minute and a half later, scoring his first goal of the season after being acquired from the Hershey Bears last week. Bouchard’s shot from the right circle beat Poulin, after Bouchard took a pass from Jonathan Audy-Marchessault.
Despite a 29-9 shots deficit at one point in the third period, the Sound Tigers tied the game on Ullstrom’s second goal of the night at 13:10 of the frame, again on the power-play. His wide-angle shot found its way past Johnson, with the assist again going to defenseman Reese.
Poulin kept the game tied at two with a miraculous blocker save on Newbury just 30 seconds later.
The Whale finally broke through with the game-winner when Brendan Bell took a long stretch pass from Zuccarello. Bell broke in alone and made a nifty move on Poulin, tucking a backhand shot between the goaltenders’ legs. Erixon earned his second assist of the night on the play.
Despite Poulin’s big night in goal, Bell had a strategy as he skated in on the Bridgeport goaltender.
“If you can get him moving side to side, he’s got to open up his legs and there’s just so much room in between there, that’s something you learn with the big guys,” said Bell. “He’s fairly acrobatic and active for a big guy, so there’s got to be a big five-hole if you’re moving side to side.”
Connecticut will return to action on Sunday, when they face the Providence Bruins in their first head-to-head meeting of the season at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center (4:05). The Whale will return home on Wednesday night, when they host the Portland Pirates at the XL Center (7:00).
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Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2 at Connecticut Whale 3 (OT)
Friday, November 18, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 0 1 1 0 – 2
Connecticut 0 2 0 1 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring. Penalties-Newbury Ct (hooking), 0:24; Klementyev Bri (tripping), 5:11; Newbury Ct (hooking), 5:48; Bell Ct (interference), 8:42; Donovan Bri (holding), 18:17.
2nd Period-1, Bridgeport, Ullstrom 11 (Donovan, Reese), 6:10 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Hagelin 7 (Erixon, Owens), 13:21. 3, Connecticut, Bouchard 1 (Audy-Marchessault), 14:50. Penalties-Newbury Ct (elbowing), 5:00; Marcinko Bri (holding), 8:31.
3rd Period-4, Bridgeport, Ullstrom 12 (Reese), 13:10 (PP). Penalties-Reese Bri (hooking), 8:30; Parlett Ct (closing hand on puck), 12:44.
OT Period-5, Connecticut, Bell 1 (Zuccarello, Erixon), 4:53. Penalties-Parlett Ct (hooking), 1:52; Ullstrom Bri (high-sticking), 2:09.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 5-4-4-4-17. Connecticut 10-13-15-7-45.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 2 / 6; Connecticut 0 / 5.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Poulin 3-4-0 (45 shots-42 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 4-3-2 (17 shots-15 saves).
Referees-Jarrod Ragusin (42).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Paul Simeon (66).