Neither the Hershey Bears or the Bridgeport Sound Tigers could hold a two-goal lead Saturday, but the Bears did manage to pull out a 5-4 road shootout win. The victory, combined with Hartford’s overtime loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, gives the Bears (33-17-3-3) a three-point lead in the Atlantic Division race over the second-place Wolfpack, who have played two fewer games.
Bridgeport entered the game with the worst-ranked power play in the American Hockey League, but managed to score three times against Hershey’s top-ranked penalty kill.
Kale Kessy was sent to the sin bin at 2:14 of the first period and Matt Lorito took advantage, pushing a rebound of a Mason Jobst shot home at 3:55. Oliver Wahlstrom netted Bridgeport’s second power-play goal of the period at 10:52 after blasting a shot past Vitek Vanecek from the left wing.
Before the first period ended, Hershey cut the deficit to 2-1 when Brian Pinho scored his first of two goals of the night at 15:19, after corralling Alex Alexeyev’s shot. The Sound Tigers started the game on a 10-0 shot run that finished 13-6 Bridgeport.
In the second period, Garrett Pilon, Brian Pinho and Brett Leason all scored three minutes apart to put Hershey in front 4-2.
The offensive explosion started when Pilon buried his 17th goal of the season at 15:22 from between the face-off circles. Sixty-one seconds later, Pinho went to the net and cashed in on a rebound to provide the Chocolate and White with its first lead of the night.
Brett Leason scored at 18:22 when Bridgeport goaltender Christopher Gibson lost his balance and fell allowing Leason to shove the puck into the net for his third goal of the season to put the Bears up 4-2, going into the third period.
Hershey outshot the Sound Tigers 12-4 in the final period, but Bridgeport rallied to draw even at 4-4. A Bears penalty put the Sound Tigers on another power play and Colin McDonald scored on a deflection at 4:02 in his 900th professional game.
The comeback continued with Simon Holmstrom beating Vanecek from the left wing with 2:22 remaining in regulation to force overtime that was scoreless.
In the shootout Philippe Maillet and Christian Djoos both converted in Round 1 and Round 2, Wahlstrom countered with a goal in Round 2, but Vanecek denied Holmstrom in Round 3 to seal Hershey’s 5-4 victory.
The Bears return to action on Tuesday night at Giant Center against the Charlotte Checkers at 7 p.m. It’s HersheyparkPass Night, where all fans will receive a Hersheypark Pass, valid for one-day admission through July 31, 2020.
This was the final game of the six-game season series between Hershey and Bridgeport. The Bears finished with an impressive 5-1-0-0 log, with the lone loss coming at the Webster Bank Arena in the first meeting this season on Nov. 23.
Friday night’s defeat snapped Hershey’s six-game road point streak dating back to Jan. 24 at Springfield. During the previous road point streak, Hershey won at Webster Bank Arena over Bridgeport on Jan. 31 by a 4-1 count.
Hershey also saw its six-game power-play goal streak come to an end after going 0-for-4 on the man-advantage. Previously, the Chocolate and White tallied at least one power-play goal in each game dating back to Feb. 7 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.