Portland, ME – Tim Kennedy scored in the eight round of the shootout to give the Portland Pirates their fifth straight victory, sixth in seven games as they defeated the Springfield Falcons, 2-1, in front of 4,706 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Friday night.
Kennedy had his point-scoring streak snapped at nine games, but was more than happy to take the two points on the night. Carrying the puck into the zone, Kennedy pulled Falcons’ goalie Devan Dubnyk out of position before sending a quick snap shot past his blocker for the win.
“We didn’t get too many chances, but we showed our resiliency and just won it,” said Kennedy.
The game was a defensive struggle for an entire 60 minutes. Springfield, who was playing the Pirates for a second time, made several adjustments to their game plan in attempt to shut down the Pirates potent offense.
“They’re an extremely good team and bear to play against, we know that and expect that,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. With them, it was more of the controlled forecheck. They would just pull back and say we’ll meet another day. It’s just up to us to make good passes.”
Mark Mancari opened the scoring for Portland with a power play goal in the second period when he skated untouched from left half-boards into the slot, sending a backhander past a screened Dubnyk at 9:45 of the second period. It was Mancari’s eight goal of the season and his fourth goal in the last three games.
“He scores a nice goal and did some exciting things in overtime, but he gives us a level of leadership and calmness when on the ice and he’s rewarded for his good play,” said Dineen.
At 4:35 of the third period, the Falcons would tie the game at 1-1 as Colin MacDonald sent the puck off the block of Pirates’ goaltender Adam Dennis.
“They put it on net and it deflected off my blocker the wrong way into the net,” said Dennis. “It’s one of those things where you can’t let it bother you and have to get right back into it and make the next save.”
The Pirates weren’t without their chances to end the game late in the third period as Nathan Gerbe had a breakaway just as time expired and during the OT, the Pirates outshot the Falcons 5-0, including a pair of 2-on-1’s by Mathieu Darche and Gerbe.
Darche, Gerbe and Kennedy each scored in the shootout for the Pirates, while Gilbert Brule, Rob Schremp and Viacheslav Trukhno scored for the Falcons.
Dennis made 26 saves on the night in his first game in net since Oct. 29 – a 3-2 OT loss in Hartford. At the other end of the ice, Dubnyk stopped 32 of 33 shot in the loss.
A highlight on the night for the Pirates besides the win was the return of Mike Funk, who missed the first nine games due to a concussion. He didn’t account for any scoring on the scoresheet, but he was anxious to get back on the ice – a little nervous too.
“I was extremely excited to be back in the line up tonight,” said Funk. “I really didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t played a real competitive game in a while so it was nice to be back.”
NOTES: The Pirates won’t be seeing anybody from Buffalo, despite Matt Ellis being placed on waivers today. The Los Angeles King, who lost Ellis on waivers to the Sabres, reclaimed him shortly after the Sabres had to make a roster move in order to get down to the 23-man roster limit. Dineen said he expected Ellis to get claimed and wasn’t expecting him to make it to Portland. Dineen also said he wasn’t sure if Ellis would be heading to L.A. or assigned to Manchester as the Kings could assign him, once he’s reclaimed.