Portland, ME – It was another tough night for the Portland Pirates, who dropped their second game in a row to the Lowell Devils, 5-3, in front of 3,491 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Friday night.
Since Nov. 19 when the Pirates began the season 12-1-1, they’ve gone 8-13-0-2 and have only managed to win back-to-back games once during that span.
“We’ve tried to get cute lately,” Pirates’ forward Mathieu Darche. “We get scored on and we get frustrated and it snowballs from there.”
Derek Whitmore gave the Pirates an early 1-0 when he flipped a one-timer over Devils’ goalie Jeff Frazee at 2:29 of the first period.
The Devils proceeded to unload for the next five goals before Nathan Gerbe scored with 1:28 left in the second period, taking the long stretch pass from Marc-Andre Gragnani to beat Frazee with a low stickside shot, cutting the lead to 5-2.
By then, the damage was done.
“I think it’s outworked more than outmuscled,” said Darche. “Gerbe’s not the biggest guy, but he’ll go in there and knock a 6-5 guy (into the boards) and it has nothing to do with size, it’s a question being outworked.”
In the first period, the Devils scored twice within a span of 4:07 on goals from Petr Varna and Vladimir Zharkov to take a 2-1 lead over the Pirates.
“We started off well and we got comfortable with a one goal lead,” said Darche.
Pierre-Luc Leblond made it 3-1 when he buried a cross-ice pass by Pirates goalie Jhonas Enroth at 2:54 of the second period.
The Pirates reeling from a first period, in which they were outshot 17-9, began the period by giving up an early goal. Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen made a change in goal, putting Ray Jean in net for his first appearance in the AHL.
On the Devils’ first shot, they’d make it 4-1 as Matthew Spiller drilled a slapshot underneath the crossbar at 6:44 of the period.
“Sometimes that’s a jolt the team needs,” said Dineen. “It backfired on me because it was a bad call by the linesman. It should have been an icing call and our guys let up and the next thing you know, it bounces right out front.”
“It’s a shame (Jean) faces a shot and it’s a bullet like that.”
Dineen replaced Jean for Enroth a short time later.
Nathan Gerbe scored his second goal of the game, pulling the Pirates back within two goals when Marek Zagrapan dished the puck to the bottom of the right face off circle where Gerbe batted the puck into the empty net as Frazee was caught behind the net after misplaying the puck at 7:23 of the third period.
Just 28 seconds later, Lowell would get that goal back Brad Mills, lifted the puck with a backhander by Enroth for a 6-3 lead for the Devils.
Michael Swift add one more for good measure with a power play goal at 10:47 of the third period to give the Devils a 7-3 lead. It’s the first time this season the Pirates have allowed seven goals in a game.
“We’ve got to get back to basics,” Darche said. “It’s question of work, it’s not a question of talent. We have plenty of talent in this room… but we’re being outworked right now.”
NOTES: Mike Weber was a scratch due to a right leg injury he suffered in Portland’s game on Wednesday against Lowell. He’s listed as day-to-day, but Dineen said he could be back in the lineup as early as tomorrow.