BRIDGEPORT -- Coming off the Christmas break, there's no telling who may be flat and who may be fresh.
"That's one thing (coach Scott Pellerin) reiterated to us," McDonald said. "He kept saying, `The first six minutes. The first six minutes.'"
Those first six minutes went a long way toward the Sound Tigers' 5-2 win over the Connecticut Whale at Webster Bank Arena.
Nino Niederreiter scored two goals on rebounds in the first 7:04, and McDonald added a power-play goal at 11:45 as the Sound Tigers built a 4-0 lead after two periods.
"We did have a good start," Pellerin said. "The guys were ready to play (Wednesday). They generated a lot of speed. They were tough in front of the goaltender."
Niederreiter was around the net again 13 minutes into the game, when he took a stick to the face; he played only one more shift. He'll be reevaluated Thursday before the Sound Tigers and Whale meet again in Hartford.
Attendance was 6,934, though slick roads from a winter storm may have kept the in-house crowd down. The Whale didn't arrive until about an hour before game time. The game began about seven minutes late because car-pooling referee Terry Koharski and linesman Glen Cooke were stuck in snowy traffic.
It wasn't long before Niederreiter, swapping lines with John Persson and moving to right wing, made it 1-0. Bridgeport had forced a Whale icing, and Niederreiter finished the rebound of a wraparound by David Ullstrom.
"That's how we have to play, how we should play," said Ullstrom, whose empty-net goal gave him his first professional four-point game.
Special teams helped. Bridgeport was just as tenacious on the penalty kill, shutting the Whale down on six chances.
And Bridgeport's second-ranked power play snapped a season-long 0-for-12 drought with McDonald's goal in the first period. They remained patient until Persson found a seam to give McDonald an open net from the left side.
"I thought we've been moving the puck pretty well. That's been consistent for us all year," McDonald said.
"When you can establish those three or four passes, that's when lanes open up."
Kevin Poulin made 25 saves, 12 of them in the third period as the Whale forced their way back with two points from Marek Hrivik.
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1. NINO NIEDERREITER, BRIDGEPORT: Scored two goals in the first 7:04, though he was injured later.
2. DAVID ULLSTROM, BRIDGEPORT: A four-point game, including an empty-net goal.
3. MAREK HRIVIK, CONNECTICUT: A goal and an assist in the Whale's comeback attempt.
UNSUNG HERO: Captain Colin McDonald led the early physical forecheck and scored a power-play goal.
UP NEXT: Thursday at Connecticut Whale, 7 p.m.
-- MICHAEL FORNABAIO
Connecticut 0 0 2--2
Bridgeport 3 1 1--5
First Period -- 1, Bridgeport, Niederreiter 14 (Ullstrom, Sundstrom), 1:03. 2, Bridgeport, Niederreiter 15 (Sundstrom, Ullstrom), 7:04. 3, Bridgeport, McDonald 5 (Persson, Cizikas), 11:45 (pp). Penalties -- DeFazio, Bpt (high-sticking), 1:21; Vernace, Con (holding stick), 9:53; Haley, Con, major (fighting), 12:42; McIver, Bpt, major (fighting), 12:42; Cantin, Bpt (slashing), 15:37; Cizikas, Bpt (hooking), 15:50; Hrivik, Con (tripping), 16:00.
Second Period -- 4, Bridgeport, Watkins 5 (Sundstrom, Ullstrom), 18:09. Penalties -- Klassen, Con (slashing), :35; Donovan, Bpt (slashing), 6:57; Ness, Bpt (delay of game-closing hand on puck), 9:12; Kreider, Con (hooking), 11:28; Ness, Bpt (tripping), 12:10.
Third Period -- 5, Connecticut, Hrivik 4 (Vernace, Kolarik), 3:43. 6, Connecticut, Parlett 2 (Kolarik, Hrivik), 7:07. 7, Bridgeport, Ullstrom 4 (Cizikas), 19:59 (en). Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal -- Connecticut 7-6-14--27. Bridgeport 11-11-7--29.
Power play opportunities -- Connecticut 0 of 6, Bridgeport 1 of 4.
Goaltenders -- Connecticut, Talbot 10-12-0 (28 shots-24 saves). Bridgeport, Poulin 8-5-2 (27-25).
Attendance -- 6,934. Referee -- T. Koharski. Linesmen -- Cooke, Simeon.