BRIDGEPORT -- Like his team, Steve Oleksy had been bounced around a bit lately. He took lumps the other night for doing the right thing; his eye was swollen enough to wear a full face shield Sunday for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
And like his team, Oleksy kept working. The Sound Tigers snapped an eight-game winless streak in possibly their biggest game of the year, beating the Connecticut Whale 4-3 with 2.0 seconds left in overtime.
"You work so hard, but the bounces haven't gone our way," said Oleksy, who took punches from Springfield's Tim Spencer on Friday after Oleksy laid a clean hit on a Falcon. "That's the season. There's ups and downs, but you've got to hope you peak at the right time, in the playoffs."
Bridgeport closed back to within two points of the Whale, who lead the Northeast Division. The Sound Tigers control their own destiny, with 10 games to play to the Whale's nine and likely the first tiebreaker.
"I thought we deserved it," Donovan said. "We'd had one or two power plays the whole game. We felt they got their chances on the power play."
The Sound Tigers killed the penalty, and then Poulin made a brilliant save at the right post on Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, kicking up his left leg to deny the winning goal.
"That save, other saves, it's just battling through it," Poulin said. "Sometimes you just throw stuff out there. Sometimes you save it. Sometimes you don't."
The Whale's goals came on shots through screens (the second one deflected) and a rebound.
"Even the last few games, Poulie played very, very well," Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. "We haven't been getting the bounces going our way. It's really well-deserved for him, well overdue."
Scott Howes and Rhett Rakhshani gave Bridgeport a 2-0 lead in the first, and Oleksy's first AHL goal got Bridgeport out of the back-and-forth period with a 3-2 lead. He had put a pass behind Tomas Marcinko on a three-on-one, but Bridgeport recovered, and Oleksy battled at the front of the net to backhand in a rebound off Donovan's point shot.
Oleksy, more often a defensive-minded defenseman than a fourth-line energy forward, played 17 games for Lake Erie last year and was in his 41st for the Sound Tigers.
"The only way I was going to get one was a no-brainer," Oleksy joked.
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1. KEVIN POULIN, BRIDGEPORT: Won them the game with 42 saves.
2. MATT DONOVAN, BRIDGEPORT: Scored the game-winner through traffic.
3. BRENDAN BELL, CONNECTICUT: Had an assist in a good game.
UNSUNG HERO: Steve Oleksy scored his first AHL goal in the first period.
UP NEXT: Tuesday vs. Worcester, 7 p.m.
-- MICHAEL FORNABAIO
Connecticut 2 0 1 0--3
Bridgeport `3 0 0 1--4
First Period -- 1, Bridgeport, Howes 10 (Gron, DiBenedetto), 9:09. 2, Bridgeport, Rakhshani 15 (Ness, Landry), 11:03. 3, Connecticut, Vernace 3 (Tessier, Tanski), 12:35. 4, Connecticut, Grant 11 (Bell, Redden), 16:47 (pp). 5, Bridgeport, Oleksy 1 (Donovan, Marcinko), 19:14. Penalties -- Vernace, Con (slashing), 12:56; Donovan, Bpt (hooking), 15:19; Marcinko, Bpt (holding), 16:59.
Second Period -- No scoring. Penalties -- Oleksy, Bpt (high-sticking), 6:11; Katic, Bpt (tripping), 15:59.
Third Period -- 6, Connecticut, Deveaux 20 (Valentenko, Newbury), 7:08. Penalties -- Wishart, Bpt (high-sticking), 10:05; Backman, Bpt (hooking), 19:21.
Overtime -- 7, Bridgeport, Donovan 9 (Katic, Rakhshani), 4:58. Penalties -- Newbury, Con (hooking), 4:06.
Shots on goal -- Connecticut 14-14-13-4--45. Bridgeport 16-8-9-3--36.
Power play opportunities -- Connecticut 1 of 6, Bridgeport 1 of 2.
Goaltenders -- Connecticut, Talbot 12-13-0 (36 shots-32 saves). Bridgeport, Poulin 18-17-4 (45-42).
Attendance -- 7,573. Referee -- Mayer. Linesmen -- Colby, Galvin.