(falconsahl.com) — The Springfield Falcons (38-18-5-4) allowed four goals in the opening period but shut down the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (27-27-6-5) the rest of the way and eventually rallied for a 5-4 victory on Thursday night at the MassMutual Center.
Alex Aleardi scored the game-winning goal in his first professional contest as the Falcons reduced their magic number to clinch a spot in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs to five points. Springfield closed out its eight-game season series with Bridgeport and took points in each matchup with the Sound Tigers this season (5-0-2-1).
The Sound Tigers struck four times on their first six shots of the game, as Springfield fell behind by two goals through 20 minutes.
Springfield responded almost immediately as Matthew Ford and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, who each had a goal and two assists, teamed up for the first of three times on the evening. Ford’s first two chances were denied by Sound Tigers netminder Rick DiPietro, but Audy-Marchessault backhanded in the third opportunity of the sequence at 3:39, making it 1-1.
Scott Campbell escaped behind a pair of Springfield forwards and tapped in a centering feed from Riley at 6:01, as the Sound Tigers went back in front, 2-1.
With Bridgeport a minute into its first power play of the game, Brock Nelson skated to the inner edge of the right circle and wristed a puck over York’s glove at 8:39 to extend the Sound Tigers’ advantage to 3-1.
The Falcons countered with a man-advantage conversion of their own. Nick Drazenovic worked the puck to the left point for Ford, whose slap shot was redirected in with a tip by Ryan Craig at 10:45, bringing Springfield closer to Bridgeport, 3-2.
The Sound Tigers shrugged off Craig’s goal by scoring under two minutes later to reclaim the two-goal pad, as Sean Backman put home a rebound on the power play at 12:21 for a 4-2 lead.
Paul Dainton replaced York after Backman’s goal, but he left the contest early in the second period with a lower-body injury. York returned to the action and was flawless on the final 13 shots he witnessed, allowing Springfield to chisel into Bridgeport’s cushion.
Off a Bridgeport turnover in the second period, Audy-Marchessault sprung Ford on a breakaway. Ford skated in on DiPietro and fooled him with a backhander from in tight at 15:54, as the Falcons closed to within one again, 4-3.
Springfield, which had only two wins in 16 situations this season when trailing after two periods, moved to even terms with Bridgeport in the formative stages of the third. Will Weber, who had registered his first professional tally on Mar. 12 in Bridgeport against DiPietro, stole a puck in the Sound Tigers’ end, progressed to the right circle, and backhanded a puck in only 26 seconds into the last stanza, knotting the game up, 4-4.
With the Falcons on a power play later in the third, Audy-Marchessault rushed back into Springfield’s end to prevent a Bridgeport scoring chance. The second-year pro dove to push the puck away from Brandon DeFazio, obtained possession, and sprung Spencer Machacek back up ice. Machacek moved into Bridgeport’s zone and peppered DiPietro with a wrister from the right circle. The puck wobbled out of his glove and into the crease, and Aleardi pushed in his milestone tally to give Springfield its first and final lead of the evening, 5-4, at 4:15.
After relinquishing goals to Bridgeport on the Sound Tigers’ first two power plays, the Falcons quieted the Sound Tigers on their final six chances, including one last window midway through the third. After their last successful penalty kill, the Falcons silenced the Sound Tigers with DiPietro pulled for an extra attacker late, and won, 5-4.
York (9-5-0) set aside 15 of 19 shots to win his first game since Mar. 2. Dainton made four saves prior to leaving the game early in the second. DiPietro (5-4-0) allowed five goals on Springfield’s 31 attempts.
Springfield tied Providence for second place in the Eastern Conference standings with the win. The two clubs trail Syracuse for the top spot by one point with a game in hand on the Crunch.
The Falcons’ lead over Connecticut for first place in the Northeast Division remained 11 points with two games in hand on the Whale. Springfield’s magic number to seal the division title decreased to eight points.