HARTFORD, April 5 – It took a little while for the Connecticut Whale to get into gear during Friday night’s game at the XL Center against the Springfield Falcons.
The Whale gave up 12 shots and two goals in the first period and looked lethargic despite not having played a game in nearly a week. Connecticut had just one shot in the first period.
But the Whale rallied, scoring four goals in the second period to pick up a 4-3 decision over Springfield, a crucial two points in their hunt for an AHL playoff berth and a victory that thrilled over 6,000 fans that came to the XL Center.
Connecticut (34-27-5-3) is currently seventh overall in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, three points ahead of ninth place Norfolk with seven games remaining in the regular season. But six are on the road. “It’s a huge win,” Whale coach Ken Gernander said. “We need those two points. Everyone in the lineup made contributions.”
The Whale play their final regular season home game of the season on Sunday at 3 p.m. against Providence. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.
Center Kris Newby had three assists for Connecticut while wing Chris Kreider had two assists. Four other players had individual goals including Brandon Segal, who scored for the fifth straight game.
Springfield came into the game tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with Providence and Syracuse. The Falcons (39-20-5-4) had won five of their last six games and looked on their way to winning again with a dominant first period. The Falcons outshot Connecticut, 12-1 and had a 2-0 lead on goals from Spencer Machacek and Matthew Ford, who deflected a shot out of the air past Whale goalie Cameron Talbot (24-24).
Connecticut played with more passion in the second period and it paid dividends early – just 13 seconds into the stanza. Kreider, who returned to Hartford from the parent New York Rangers club on Wednesday, poked the puck around to Newbury, who fed Mike Vernace at the left point. Vernace’s scored to cut the deficit to one with his eighth goal of the year.
The Whale tied the game at 2-2 when Marek Hrivik, back in the lineup after missing 35 games with an injury, took a feed from Christian Thomas and drilled it into the top corner of the net with 11:29 remaining in the period.
Segal picked up his 23rd goal of the season to give Connecticut a 3-2 lead with four minutes left in the period. Kreider executed a strong forecheck and got the puck loose for Segal in the high slot. After quick give and go to Newbury in the circle, Segal’s shot beat Falcon goalie Curtis McElhinney down low.
The Whale extended its lead to two goals on a power play goal from Jesper Fast – his first professional goal.
Springfield cut the lead to one goal in the third period but Talbot stood tall. He stopped 21 of 24 shots he faced in the game. Connecticut allowed just 13 Falcons shots in the second and third period combined after giving up 12 in the first period.
Information from the Connecticut Whale and AHL used to compile this report.
Springfield 4, Connecticut 3
Springfield 2 0 1 – 3
Connecticut 0 4 0 – 4
Springfield, Machacek 12 (Holden, Chaput), 11:04. 2, Springfield, Ford 7 (Savard, Holden), 11:25. Penalties-Haley Ct (cross-checking), 16:45.
3, Connecticut, Vernace 8 (Newbury, Kreider), 0:13. 4, Connecticut, Hrivik 5 (Thomas), 11:29. 5, Connecticut, Segal 23 (Newbury), 16:00. 6, Connecticut, Fast 1 (Kreider, Newbury), 19:11 (PP). Penalties-Fast Ct (goaltender interference), 12:22; served by Smith Spr (bench minor – too many men), 17:53.
7, Springfield, Joudrey 8 (Russell, Parlett), 7:25. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Springfield 12-4-8-24. Connecticut 1-9-6-16.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 0 / 2; Connecticut 1 / 1.
Goalies-Springfield, McElhinney 27-14-3 (16 shots-12 saves). Connecticut, Talbot 24-24-1 (24 shots-21 saves).