The Providence Bruins started strong, but gave up two power play goals in the third period in a 3-2 loss to Bridgeport on Thursday in Marlboro.
The P-Bruins had won three straight against the Sound Tigers, but Bridgeport played with greater urgency than they did in previous meetings.
“Our guys are going to have to learn, and I think they learned today, that if you play the same team over and over again and win, it’s not going to get easier, it’s going to get harder. Teams just are too good, and these guys are all professionals,’’ said coach Jay Leach.
“The first period went the way we wanted it to go, then in the second and third, (Bridgeport) pushed. We got frustrated. I saw some guys have some lackluster efforts and it just kind of snowballed from there. Certainly something to look back on and hopefully we can learn from it. Not our best.’’
Here are three quick hits:
KOPPANEN COMING ON
The 6-foot-5 center is a much-improved player since coming over from Finland at the end of the 2017-18 season.
On Thursday, his 23rd birthday, he scored a goal on a sizzling wrist shot. It was his third goal of the season, tied for the team lead with Zach Senyshyn.
Leach said he’s seen that shot before.
“I remember him scoring a goal when he came over against Lehigh. I distinctly remember it, off the rush. So he’s always had that wrister that he scored tonight, right over the pad, quick release.’’
This season Koppanen has carved out a niche as a third-line center.
“He’s come into his own with regards to how he defends and plays as a centerman and then also with his stick,’’ said Leach.
“Physically, he’s certainly improved with his conditioning, as well as his strength. We’re seeing a developed player who is starting to look like a legit NHL callup, which is exciting.’’
DIDIER STEPS IN
Providence’s lineup on Sunday included four first-year pros on defense. The addition on Thursday of 27-year-old Josiah Didier, who was cleared to play earlier this week, added some needed experience.
“He brought some poise on the breakout a couple of times,’’ said Leach.
“We’ve been very young the last five games and (have had) some moments and even tonight where our young guys got a little overwhelmed by some forechecks and didn’t have that extra half-second of poise that I thought Dids showed tonight. It comes with some experience.”
Jakub Zboril blossomed when playing with Didier last season. Cooper Zech was Didier’s partner against Bridgeport.
“With Dids, what you’re really going to get is a hard, defensive defenseman type of game, which he brings every night. Finishes his checks, blocks a ton of shots. Certainly a leader for us. A guy that brings a lot of others into the fight and a welcome addition for our group.’’
ABOUT THAT POWER PLAY
Since going three for seven with the man advantage in a win at Bridgeport on Feb. 13, the P-Bruins have failed to score on 12 straight power plays, including zero for five on Thursday.
The power play stands 12th in the AHL at 20 percent, but has given up three shorthanded goals, the most in the league.
“It goes back to playing the same teams over and over again. Our power play units really haven’t changed much. (Bridgeport is) watching what we’re doing and they had a concerted effort to be aggressive and get on it,’’ said Leach.
“We didn’t respond to that urgency. Our urgency has to come in the way we move the puck. It was slow. It was molasses. We gave up three two on ones, I think, on one power play, all on slow puck movement that they pounced all over, and back down they went.
“The first (power play), if I’m not mistaken, we had a quick win back to the point. We had some poise, we moved it quickly, had a couple of shots. After that it was a real challenge for us to sustain any zone time. It’s certainly something we’re going to have to look at and improve upon if we expect to have success against this team.’’