There’s an old saying when it comes to sports, “There’s a reason it’s the minor leagues.” For the Connecticut Whale, 3-2 losers to the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin Donuts Center Sunday evening, the reason is simple – streaky inconsistency.
All season long the Whale have been winning in bunches, with five, four and three game winning streaks. Prior to Sunday’s defeat they’d lost two games in a row four times, lost four-of-five once and now they have their second three-of-their last-four streak.
The difference this time is that the Whale are playing good hockey, but it’s the little things that are costing them games during this streak.
The Whale fell behind just 3:49 into the game as starter Cam Talbot (7-5-0, 10 saves) first stopped a Craig Cunningham wraparound attempt, but the puck slid out to his left where center Kyle MacKinnon was waiting to knock it past the Whale netminder.
Despite being in last place in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins do have their professional pride and in the tail-end of a back-to-back came to play especially after having been shutout 3-0 the night before.
Eight seconds later, Kirk MacDonald and Pavel Valentenko went after each other. The key aspect of this moment was that Kris Newbury jumped in to protect his teammate. Jumping in however cost the Whale dearly as Newbury received a game-misconduct for being the third man in a fight.
The penalties kept coming. Andre Deveaux took a high sticking call at 9:27 and then at 11:44 Saturday’s hero, Chris McKelvie took an interference call sending the Bruins to their second power-play. On the ensuing power play, just fifteen seconds in, Carter Camper fired a shot from the slot that blew right past Talbot. Josh Hennessy and David Warsofsky were given the assists.
The Whale then dug themselves a deep hole that they were able to fight themselves out of…at least temporarily.
A very heated Stu Bickel and Kevan Miller got really physical at 12:10. The exchange led to misconducts for both defenseman. But it also resulted in Bickel being given a double roughing minor to the two-minute variety to Miller.
54 seconds later Brendan Bell followed Bickel into the sin bin with a Cross-Checking call creating a five-on-three for 1:06. But then 54 seconds later Valentenko went off for a high sticking call adding 54 more seconds to the two-man advantage.
The Whale dodged the bullet with some exceptionally strong penalty killing.
Despite being down two goals, the Whale entered the third period down just two goals and with shots eleven apiece. The Whale have been strong entering third periods with a 5-4-0-1 record, so the chances of a comeback were not out of the question.
But that quickly left the building when Cunningham fired what should have been a relatively simple glove from above the right circle; a shot that instead hit Talbot’s glove and went into the back of the net. Jamie Tardif got the assist on Cunningham’s fourth of the season at just 2:49.
With that goal, Talbot’s night was finished and Chad Johnson (8-4-2, 15 saves) entered the game.
Head Coach Ken Gernander’s move to send in Johnson worked to settle his team. Exactly eight minutes later, Blake Parlett picked off a clearing attempt by Anton Khudobin (8-11-2, 29 saves) and sent it over to Kelsey Tessier low on the right side and fired the puck back on net. Khudobin misplayed the shot and surrendered Tessier’s second goal in the last two games and cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Whale continued to push for another score and looked to pull within a goal when Andreas Thuresson knocked a puck by Khudobin. There was contact, but it appeared to be just part of the play, but referee Jon McIssac declared that Thuresson interfered with Khudobin’s ability to play the puck and waived off the goal and put the Whale’s Swedish import into the penalty box.
“To have that called back was unfortunate, and that may be the difference in a close game,” Gernander told the media afterwards.
The period ended with the Whale doing what they do best…pushing hard to get back in the game as they’d done so many times prior.
Just 1:17 into the final frame, Tessier won a draw in the Providence end to Tim Erixon. The son of former Ranger Jan Erixon sent the puck over to Bickel who sent the puck to Tessier in the left wing corner. Tessier put the shot on goal and beat Khudobin for the second time pulling the Whale within a goal.
The Whale would have three power plays to try and even the score, but were unable to get one past Khudobin.
For Tessier, this was his first multi-goal game since the second game of his professional career when he had two goals and an assist against the Worcester Sharks on October 10, 2010.
“[Tessier] played a strong game, I think everyone pulled their weight,” Gernander said.
While it’s the little things that Gernander and his staff will deal with this week in practice, one big detail thing they will deal with is the unknown physical condition of Mats Zuccarello. The health of “The Norwegian Hobbit” will be a big concern for the coming week as the Whale prepare for perhaps their most heated rivals as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers will return to the XL Center for another meeting of the GEICO Connecticut Cup next Friday night.
The little media coverage that the Bruins get can be found at Projo.com.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* The Whale are 8-3-1-2 in both one goal games AND when they outshoot the competition.
* Without getting a point in Sunday’s game, Wade Redden ends a five game point streak (0g, 6a)
* Andre Deveaux ended a four game point streak (2g, 4a)
* When Mats Zuccarello returns from his lower body injury, he’ll be playing with a six-game point streak (5g, 5a)
* The Whale have lost the last three of four games that Cam Talbot has started. Chad Johnson has won five of his last six starts.
Voros – Newbury – Bouchard
Bourque – Audy-Marchessault – Deveaux
Grant – Tessier – Thuresson
McKelvie – Owens – Tanski
Valentenko – Parlett
Redden – Bell
Erixon – Bickel
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body Injury – Undetermined
Jared Nightingale – Healthy Scratch
1. PRO – C. Cunningham
2. CT – K. Tessier
3. PRO – J. Tardif
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Jon McIsaac (39)
Matt MacPherson (83)
Ed Boyle (81)
The Rangers and Islanders rivalry renews itself with their AHL affiliates as the Sound Tigers visit the XL Center for another round of the GEICO Connecticut Cup series. Bob Crawford will be on the air with the pre-game show at 6:50pm on WCCC.com.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 2 at Providence Bruins 3 – Status: Final
Sunday, December 11, 2011 – Dunkin’ Donuts Center
Connecticut 0 1 1 – 2
Providence 2 1 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Providence, MacKinnon 2 (Cunningham, Ridderwall), 3:49. 2, Providence, Camper 6 (Hennessy, Tardif), 11:59 (PP). Penalties-McKelvie Pro (tripping), 1:27; Voros Ct (fighting), 5:32; MacDermid Pro (fighting), 5:32; McKelvie Ct (roughing), 5:40; Newbury Ct (game misconduct – third man in), 5:40; Valentenko Ct (fighting), 5:40; MacDonald Pro (roughing, roughing, fighting), 5:40; Deveaux Ct (high-sticking), 9:27; McKelvie Ct (interference), 11:44; Bickel Ct (roughing, roughing, misconduct – continuing altercation), 12:10; Miller Pro (roughing, misconduct – continuing altercation), 12:10; Bell Ct (cross-checking), 13:04; Valentenko Ct (high-sticking), 13:58.
2nd Period-3, Providence, Cunningham 4 (Tardif), 2:49. 4, Connecticut, Tessier 3 (Parlett), 10:49. Penalties-McKelvie Pro (cross-checking), 8:13; Thuresson Ct (goaltender interference), 15:08; Camper Pro (holding), 16:21.
3rd Period-5, Connecticut, Tessier 4 (Bickel, Erixon), 1:17. Penalties-MacDonald Pro (holding), 5:13; Arniel Pro (roughing), 11:18; Hamill Pro (holding), 14:56; Audy-Marchessault Ct (tripping), 19:37.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 11-11-9-31. Providence 11-10-7-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 7; Providence 1 / 7.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 7-5-0 (13 shots-10 saves); Johnson 8-4-2 (15 shots-15 saves). Providence, Khudobin 8-11-2 (31 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Jon McIsaac (39).
Linesmen-Matt MacPherson (83), Ed Boyle (81).