wBRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Shut out for the first two periods, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers threw everything they had at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender John Curry during the third period.
Despite being plowed over on several occasions by Bridgeport players crashing the net, Curry stopped 16 of 17 shots in the third period to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 win in Game 4 on Wednesday.
“It was nothing serious. Nothing hurts,” Curry said. “But that’s their gameplan – keep the goalie thinking about something else other than the puck.”
The win gives the Penguins a 3-1 lead as the series goes back to Wilkes-Barre for Game 5 on Friday and, if necessary, Game 6 on Saturday.
“We definitely needed this one. They’re a real tough opponent and they battle all the way to the end,” said Penguins head coach Todd Reirden.
The Penguins got on the board in the first period when Chris Minard scored by backhanding a rebound past Peter Mannino.
The goal, Minard’s fourth in as many postseason games, gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead 15 minutes into the game.
Less than two minutes into the second period, the Penguins extended their lead to 2-0 when Jeff Taffe took a saucer pass from J-M Daoust and one-timed the puck past Mannino before he could react.
The goal was Taffe’s second of the playoffs and Daoust’s assist gave him a team-leading six postseason points.
With a two-goal lead and almost two periods to play, the Penguins got physical. Joe Vitale, Paul Bissonnette and Tim Wallace led the charge by hitting anything on the ice in a white jersey.
Vitale registered three hits alone on one shift, and by the end of the second period, Reirden said he had totaled eight.
“It let them know we were here to play,” Reirden said. “Whether you’re the biggest guy or the smallest guy on our team, you’re expected to be a physical factor. Joe’s line was certainly a factor tonight.”
Vitale said he felt the hits he and his teammates dished out wore down the Sound Tigers a bit. And while Vitale seemed intent on throwing a hit anytime the opportunity presented itself, there was a method behind it all.
“One of the things we wanted to do is put pucks past their defensemen and make them chase. And defenseman or forward will tell you it’s a pain having to go back to get pucks and get hit,” Vitale said. “It’s just not fun, and the next time they start to not want to go back there anymore.
“It was starting to tire them out.”
Despite the pounding, the Sound Tigers were still able to muster a few scoring chances on Curry.
Midway through the second period Curry made a save on Jeremy Colliton in front and did it again late in the period to stifle a Bridgeport two-on-one rush.
Bridgeport did manage a power-play goal with less than five minutes to play when a Ben Walter shot from the point deflected past Curry.
But unlike Sunday’s overtime loss, the Penguins prevented a Bridgeport comeback and held on to the one-goal lead.
“It showed a lot about our team that we held on,” said Taffe. “It’s easy to get frustrated when they get a power-play goal with under five minutes, but we responded well.”
•The Penguins have an all-time record of 11-7 against the Sound Tigers in the postseason, and they have an 8-2 record on the road against Bridgeport.
•The Penguins have an eight-game road winning streak against the Sound Tigers.
•The Penguins are 13-6 when they have a chance to clinch a series, and a win at home on Friday will do just that. Tickets are still available for Friday’s Game 5 at the Wachovia Arena.