Portland, ME – It was bound to happen that the Portland Pirates eventually had to lose another game in regulation. Who could believe the Pirates would maintain the pace they were on this season, even the New England Patriots loss in their attempt at a perfect season.
They believed in the locker room. Actually, they demanded that sort of perfection. Unfortunately, for the Pirates they fell with a loud thud, as all good things must come to an end.
The Pirates gave up six goals, falling to the Hartford Wolf Pack, 6-2, in front of 5,028 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday night.
It was the first loss for the Pirates in their last six games at the Civic Center and the first time they’ve have lost back-to-back games this season. A loss the Pirates felt they should have avoided.
“The team has been rolling along pretty well and all of a sudden… guys started cutting corners to the net,” said Pirates captain Tyler Bouck. “It caught up to us — it caught up to us big time. It’s been creeping into our game the last few games and we’re able to get some lucky breaks and make up for it, but tonight those breaks weren’t there.”
The Pirates were again without the services of forward Mark Mancari who was recalled on Thursday by the Buffalo Sabres, but Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen refused to use the loss of Mancari as an excuse for the current slump.
“It’s a non-factor,” he said. “There is quality ice time to go around. It’s a chance for me as a coach to put players into more coveted spots and it’s up to them to take advantage of it.”
If there has been a bright spot for the Pirates over the last two games, it’s been the play of Felix Schutz who has three points during that span. Schutz opened the scoring for the Pirates early in the first period, taking a 1-0 lead when he avoided a check at the blueline, dishing the puck off the Jimmy Bonneau.
Bonneau threw the puck toward the net, hitting Schutz, at the top of the crease, beating Wolf Pack Matt Zaba.
From there it was all downhill for the Pirates as not enough glue could keep their ship afloat on this night.
It started at 13:18 of the first period, with the Wolf Pack on a power play as defenseman Michael Sauer fired a shot from the high slot through a screen, beating Pirates goalie Adam Dennis.
Just 2:14 later, Hartford took the lead, 2-1 on a goal from Devin DiDomete, who tipped Brian Fahey’s shot from the point by Dennis at 15:32 of the period. It was DiDomete’s first professional goal.
With the game still in reach for the Pirates, they’d get a power play chance to tie the game, but a turnover in the defensive zone lead to a shorthanded goal by Artem Anisimov at 7:30 of the second period, extending the lead to 3-1.
It’s been an issue (turnovers) the Pirates have dealt with over the last few games.
“It bled over from Wednesday night’s in Hartford,” said Bouck. “We were lucky we got 5-on-3’s against Hartford the last time we played those guys.”
“That’s what won us that hockey game. Otherwise we were out of that hockey game too.”
At 17:09, Justin Soryal made it 4-1 for the Wolf Pack as the Pirates completely lost focus.
“If it was one thing, we weren’t in sync tonight,” said Dineen. “It was a lot of circling and a lot of softness. That’s what happens because as special as we thought we are, if we don’t have some structure and some battle to our game, we’re a pretty easy bunch to play against.”
In the third period, Hartford made it 5-1 at 9:03 as Corey Potter scored a power play goal — his second of the season — with a shot from the point, beating Dennis to the short side
At 12:29, the Pirates added their second goal of the night when Michael Funk found the back of the net on a wrap around, sliding the puck underneath Zaba to the cut lead to three goals, but it didn’t last.
Matt Ford gave the Wolf Pack a half dozen when he beat Dennis with a hard wrist from the slot with 2:28 left in the game.
“The work ethic wasn’t there and it’s just cutting corners all over the play, it just wasn’t Pirates hockey,” said Bouck.
Obviously, the Pirates were not happy with their play and its ironic how’s it mimic the play of their parent club in Buffalo, but the Pirates want to make sure they snap out of it quickly.
“We’re quite upset at ourselves and we’re going to come back tomorrow and get some work done. We better be a different hockey team on Wednesday.
NOTES: Former Pirate Mark Mancari scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night against the New York Islanders. He played 17:09 and nearly had a goal earlier in the period, but it went off the post.
When the Pirates take to the ice against the Worcester Sharks on Wednesday, fans may see a familiar name on the ice. 42-year-old Claude Lemieux signed a deal with the Sharks this week as he tries to make his way back to the NHL. Lemieux played 1197 NHL games, scoring 379 goals, 406 assists for 785 points and 1756 penalty minutes with Montreal, New Jersey, Colorado and Phoenix. He last played in 2003-04 when he played seven games with Zug of the Swiss-A league.