BRIDGEPORT 6, SPRINGFIELD 2
Rookie forward Rhett Rakhshani netted three goals in a span of 1:59 in the second period, and Bridgeport cruised to a 6-2 win over visiting Springfield in Tuesday afternoon matinee action at the Webster Bank Arena.
Rakhshani, who was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team last week, notched his 22nd, 23rd, and 24th goals of the season and registered his second hat trick in a seven-game span, following a three-goal effort at Portland on Mar. 25.
The 22-year-old Rakhshani added to his lead atop the AHL’s rookie scoring race, now checking in with 62 points (24-38-62) in 65 outings this season.
Justin DiBenedetto gave Bridgeport a 1-0 first-period lead on the power play, and rookie Joe Pereira made it 2-0 early in the second period with his first professional goal. Former Sound Tiger Greg Moore cut the Falcons’ deficit in half at the 6:38 mark, but then Rakhshani went to work.
He nabbed his first goal just five seconds after Moore scored and struck again only 21 seconds later. After another 1:38 elapsed, Rakhshani buried a power play goal to complete the hat trick. Jeremy Colliton assisted on all three strikes, and rookie Tyler McNeely assisted on two of them before scoring one of his own in the third frame.
The AHL record for three fastest goals by the same player is 57 seconds, established by the Indianapolis Capitals’ Bill Jennings on Feb. 16, 1941.
Trevor Smith – another former Sound Tiger – also scored for the Falcons in the losing effort.
PORTLAND 2, WORCESTER 1 (SO)
Mark Parrish scored in the shootout’s first round, and that proved to be the only conversion for either side on Tuesday as Portland edged closer to the Atlantic Division title with a 2-1 road win over Worcester at the DCU Center.
The Pirates (45-23-6-2, 98 points) now sit three points up on second-place Manchester in the Atlantic and still have four games left to the Monarchs’ four.
Pirates forward Paul Byron netted his 22nd goal of the season just 57 seconds after the opening face-off, and that slim 1-0 advantage stood up until 8:19 of the third frame, when Worcester’s T.J. Trevelyan tied it up.
Portland goaltender Jeff Jakaitis, who made three appearances for the Sharks earlier this season, stopped the other 36 shots he faced through regulation and overtime before denying all five Worcester attempts in the shootout.
The Sharks (36-29-4-9, 85 points) closed to within one point of Connecticut for the Atlantic Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot, but the Whale now own a game in hand and have already clinched the tiebreaker.
Worcester, which now can earn a maximum of 89 points to the Whale’s max of 92, must finish ahead of Connecticut in order to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive spring.
The shootout loss by Worcester allowed Norfolk to officially punch its postseason ticket, as the Admirals will return to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.
ROCKFORD 4, SAN ANTONIO 2
Rookie forward Kyle Beach scored twice as part of a three-goal third period rally, and Rockford collected a 4-2 come-from-behind road win over San Antonio on Tuesday at the AT&T Center, dealing a blow to the Rampage’s postseason hopes.
Beach, a former first-round draft pick who entered the night with just one goal in his previous 15 games, tied the game at 2-2 a little under six minutes into the third frame. After fellow rookie Ben Smith notched what would eventually be the game-winner at 13:36, Beach added an unassisted empty-netter with 1:06 to go.
Jeff Taffe registered his team-leading 28th goal of the season for Rockford; Mathis Olimb and Brandon Pirri chipped in two assists apiece; and goaltender Alec Richards made 27 saves to improve to 3-1-0 in his last four decisions.
Matt Watkins netted both goals for the Rampage, who remained two points back of Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, and both teams now have three games left. Dane Byers assisted on both markers.
HAMILTON 2, ABBOTSFORD 1
Defenseman Kyle Klubertanz snapped a 1-1 tie with 3:43 left to play in regulation, and Hamilton held on for a 2-1 road win over Abbotsford on Tuesday night, officially clinching a berth in the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Bulldogs, who captured the North Division title last season, also pulled into a tie with first-place Manitoba at 93 points apiece. The 2010-11 division crown will be decided this coming weekend when the teams collide for a two-game set in Winnipeg.
Klubertanz’s game-winner, which was assisted by fellow rearguard Brandon Nash, came exactly one minute after Abbotsford forward Jon Rheault had knotted the contest up at 1-1.
Hamilton initially grabbed a 1-0 advantage when Nigel Dawes converted a first-period penalty shot for his league-leading 41st goal of the season.
Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre (22-11-3) earned the victory with 29 saves in net, improving to 10-6-2 since arriving via trade from the Chicago Wolves.