Playing the second game of a home-and-home series against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Worcester Sharks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead but as was the case Tuesday night at the DCU Center, the Sharks failed to protect the lead as they surrendered five unanswered goals in a 6-3 loss to the Sound Tigers Thursday morning at the Webster Bank Arena.
Alternate captain Bracken Kearns scored his 20th goal of the season and rookie right winger Matt Nieto scored his first professional goal for the Sharks, who remain seven points behind the Hershey Bears for the final playoff spot in the AHL Eastern Conference with only nine games remaining.
The Sharks took an early 1-0 lead at 5:30 of the first period when rookie right winger Daniil Tarasov found the puck in front and backhanded a shot past Sound Tigers goaltender Rick DiPietro for his 11th goal of the season. Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty, who got the puck in front for Tarasov, was credited with the lone assist.
At 10:44, Sharks alternate captain Matt Pelech dropped the gloves with Sound Tigers right winger Blair Riley after Riley boarded Sharks defenseman Adam Comrie from behind. On the ensuing Sharks power play, Kearns deflected home linemate Jon Matsumoto's shot from the point for his team leading 11th power play goal of the season. Sharks defenseman Derek Joslin was credited with the secondary assist.
In the second period, the Sharks saw their lead evaporate as they surrendered four goals in the opening 9:43. Sound Tigers forward Scott Campbell cut across the front of the crease and tipped in Sound Tigers defenseman Matt Donovan's shot from the left point for his fifth goal of the season at 0:44 to cut the Sharks lead in half.
With Comrie assessed a double minor penalty for high-sticking at 4:20, Sound Tigers center Brock Nelson tied the game at 4:31 with his 20th goal of the season off a one-timer blast from the bottom of the right face-off circle that beat Worcester Sharks goaltender Harri Sateri glove side. The Sound Tigers took a 3-2 lead at 7:57 when Donovan beat Sateri blocker side with a rocket of a shot from on top of the left face-off circle. Sound Tigers captain Matt Watkins extended the lead to 4-2 with his 11th goal of the season at 9:43 when he redirected in front a David Ullstrom spin around shot from the left face-off circle.
Looking to spark the Sharks, Kearns dropped the gloves with Sound Tigers defenseman Nathan McIver at 13:35. Near the end of the second period, McIver took a run at Tarasov near the bench that the Sharks didn't appreciate as Pelech pounced on McIver 97-seconds into the third period. Pelech was assessed a five minute major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct for being the aggressor (AHL rule 46.2).
With four seconds left on the ensuing Sound Tigers power play, Nelson scored his second goal of the game at 6:37 off a one-timer from the bottom of the right face-off circle that was set-up by a cross ice feed from Sound Tigers rookie forward Ryan Strome.
The Sharks stopped the bleeding at 10:02 when Nieto slammed home a rebound on the right side for a power play goal, his first professional goal, that was assisted by Joslin and Matsumoto. The Sound Tigers sealed the game at 16:29 when rookie forward Joe Diamond poked the puck past Doherty at the right point, rushed into the Sharks zone 2-on-1 with linemate Sean Backman and beat Sateri blocker side with a quick snap shot from deep inside the left face-off circle for his second goal of the season.
NOTES... Shots were 31-30 in favor of the Sound Tigers... The Sharks went 2-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-5 on the penalty kill... Sateri is now 14-18-3 with a 2.79 goals-against-average and .905 save percentage... Joslin and Matsumoto each had two assists... Kearns has now scored 20 goals in three consecutive seasons... With the three fights, the Sharks now have 74 through 67 games... Defenseman Dylan DeMelo made his season debut with the Sharks after the Mississauga Steelheads were eliminated from the OHL Playoffs... Dane Walters made his professional debut for the Sharks and wore no. 46... Pelech was assessed a total of 20 penalty minutes and now has 232 for the season... Curt Gogol (inj), Brodie Reid (inj), Marek Viedensky (inj), Jimmy Bonneau (scr), Mike Brennan (scr), Yanni Gourde (scr), Lane Scheidl (scr) and Denny Urban (scr) did not dress for the Sharks... This was the fifth of six meetings between the teams this season... The Sharks are 3-2-0-0 against the Sound Tigers this season, 16-16-0-2 on the road and 29-30-2-6 with 66 points overall... The Sharks fell below .500 for the first time since being 3-4-1-1 back on Nov. 3, 2012 (via SharksAHL.com).