Portland, ME – The Portland Pirates made it two-for-two on the weekend as Nathan Gerbe and Marek Zagrapan each scored twice as the Pirates held on for a 5-4 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before a crowd of 4,630 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday.
The Pirates jumped on the Penguins early and often in the first period, opening a 3-0 lead in the first period.
Marc-Andre Gragnani opened the scoring for the Portland at 2:18 of the period as he finished off a two-on-one, flipping a backhand underneath Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender John Curry.
At 9:37, Marek Zagrapan scored his first of two on the night, again on a two-on-one odd man rush, snapping a shot from the right hash mark by Curry for the 2-0 lead.
“Those are quality scoring chances that we have to take advantage of,” said Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen. “We really took advantage of our strength’s which is team speed and that’s how we scored those goals.”
The Pirates capitalized on an odd play with 6:18 left in the period, extending their lead.
Zagrapan, high in the slot, fired a shot off the glass behind the net, where it made an odd bounce to Mancari, who attempted to stuff the puck on the short side. Curry made the save, but Gerbe, crashing the net, stuffed the puck between the legs of Curry for the goal.
It was the Pirates third goal on five shots in the period.
Late in period, Dylan Hunter took a shot off his left foot. He would leave the game and didn’t return as a precaution.
“He couldn’t get the skate on and we have a couple of days to see where with at (with Hunter),” said Dineen.
The Penguins tallied a shorthanded goal at 8:42 of the second period as Dave Gove finished off a wrist shot, stick side on Pirates’ goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
At 15:51, Gerbe scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season when, from behind the goal line, he banked the puck off Curry’s right leg in to the net, giving the Pirates a 4-1 lead.
The game began to take a physical tone, but Portland was able to withstand the barrage from the Penguins, especially in the third period.
“We really have team toughness,” said Pirates’ defenseman Mike Weber. It’s not about the fighting, but every one taking the body and doing the little things.”
The Penguins did cut the lead in half at 4-2, as Jeff Taffe scored in the early moments of the third period.
“Tonight was a different mood in the room,” said Weber. We didn’t get off to a good start this weekend, but we battled and we had a little let down (in the third period), but we got back to the way we know how to play.”
At 12:55, Chris Minard pulled the Penguins to within a goal with plenty of time remaining on the clock. Jeffry Dustin fired a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle, Enroth made the save, but the rebound came out to Minard, who had the easy open net shot.
In the final minute of the period, Zagrapan scored his second goal of the night with an empty net goal, seemingly sealing the victory for the Pirates, but with 16 seconds left on the clock Wilkes-Barre wouldn’t go away quietly with a 6-on-5 goal from Jeff Taffe.
Jhonas Enroth made 33 saves in preserving the victory for Portland and his first win in North America.
With the win, the Pirates improve to 4-1-0-0 and will be off until their next game on Wednesday when they travel to Hartford to begin a three game road trip. Portland will faceoff against the Wolf Pack at 7:00pm at the XL Center before traveling to the Scope in Norfolk, Virginia for a pair of game against for Pirates Zenon Konopka and Mike McKenna and the Norfolk Admirals.