Despite scoring two goals inside the final five minutes of the game, the Worcester Sharks were defeated 4-3 by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders) in front 4,428 fans at the DCU Center Saturday night.
The Sharks, who fell to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, got power play goals from forwards Micheal Haley, Chris Crane and Willie Coetzee. In addition, forward Travis Oleksuk dished out two assists while goaltender Troy Grosenick made 21 saves in net.
It didn't take for tempers to boil over as Sharks defenseman Taylor Doherty went after and pounded Sound Tigers forward Colton Gillies into the ice after Gillies kneed Sharks captain Bryan Lerg while simultaneously delivering a high forearm shot. Doherty was assessed 17 penalty minutes (two for instating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct) while Gillies received 20 minutes (five for kneeing, five for fighting and game misconduct).
Inside the final minute of the period, the Sound Tigers took a 1-0 lead when off a faceoff in the left circle of the Sharks zone set up by an icing call, forward Harry Zolnierczyk ripped a slap shot one-timer from the center point past the glove of Grosenick at 19:12 for his 17th goal of the season.
The lead was extended to 2-0 at 4:01 of the second period when forward Carson McMillan flipped a rebound shot from inside the crease up and over the outstretched glove of Grosenick after Grosenick had made a sliding split-legged save to rob Zolniercyzk of a goal on odd man rush at the conclusion of the Sharks' power play opportunity.
Haley got the Sharks on the scoreboard at 6:49 when he got positioning in front and redirected a through-the-crease centering feed from Coetzee past Sound Tigers goaltender Kevin Poulin for a power play goal. Oleksuk had the secondary assist on the goal, which was Haley's team leading 18th goal of the season.
With less than two minutes left in the period, Sharks defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser turned the puck over inside his own zone at the blue line and fell down, which sprung a two-on-one rush for the Sound Tigers that was finished off by forward Dustin Jeffrey's quick one-timer shot from deep inside the left faceoff circle at 18:37 for his 19th goal of the season.
At 6:11 of the third period, the Sound Tigers pushed their lead to 4-1 as forward Sebastian Collberg stuffed the puck past Grosenick for his fourth goal of the season after Jeffrey had pushed the puck towards the net off a faceoff win in the left circle of the Sharks zone.
Crane stopped the bleeding at 15:03 with a no look, swinging backhanded shot from deep inside the right faceoff circle off a faceoff win for his first career AHL goal and power play goal. Sharks forward John McCarthy was credited with the lone assist.
Coetzee pulled the Sharks to within a goal at 17:46 with a power play goal, his eighth goal of the season, off a one-timer from deep inside the right faceoff circle. Oleksuk, who fed Coetzee the puck from behind the Sound Tigers net, and Sharks defenseman Dylan DeMelo had the assists on the goal.
Though the Sharks kept the pressure on in the final two minutes and change of the period, they couldn't get the equalizing goal past Poulin, who finished with 39 saves to help end the Sound Tigers' 10-game losing streak.
NOTES... Shots on goal were 42-25 in favor of the Sharks... The Sharks went 3-for-6 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill... Grosenick is now 17-8-3 with a 2.69 goals-against-average and .905 save percentage... Sharks forward Ryan Carpenter had a game high six shots on goal... Doherty had a team high 17 penalty minutes... Sharks defenseman Taylor Fedun was called up to San Jose... The Sharks' 25 penalty minutes and three power play goals were both season highs... This was the second of four meetings between the Sharks and Sound Tigers this season... The Sharks are 1-1-0 against the Sound Tigers, 18-9-3 at the DCU Center and 31-20-6 with 68 points overall... The Sharks wrap up their three-in-three weekend Sunday afternoon as they travel to play the Providence Bruins at 3:05 p.m./et.
1. Dustin Jeffrey - Sound Tigers (1-1-2)
2. Harry Zolniercyzk - Sound Tigers (1-1-2)
3. Willie Coetzee - Sharks (1-1-2)
McCarthy / Carpenter / Hayes
Lerg (C) / Trupp / Tarasov
Haley (A) / Oleksuk / Coetzee
Crane / Parkes
Taormina (A) / Tennyson
Stollery / DeMelo
Young / Doherty