Providence, RI – The Portland Pirates, winless in their last seven road games, went into Providence, Rhode Island with one purpose.
To collect two very crucial points in the standings.
The Pirates did just that as Jhonas Enroth made 37 saves and Nathan Gerbe scored a pair of goals to lift Portland over the Providence Bruins, 5-3, in front of 9,171 at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Friday night.
The Pirates were sitting four points behind the Providence Bruins at the beginning of the night, with three games in hand. Neither team has been able to seize on the bad luck of the other as both have struggled over the last 20 games. Portland is one game below .500 with a record of 9-10-0-1, while Providence is at .500 at 9-9-1-1.
“It’s a big game for both teams,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “Both teams are not on top of their game and if you look at the stats, they tell us that were both at the top of the standings, but (both coaching staffs) are looking at this as an important game to right the ship.”
The Bruins entered the night, winless in their last two games and in need of getting back into the win column.
Mikko Lehtonen would get the Bruins started on the right track when he scored his 11th of the season just 1:41 into the first period.
Lehtonen fired a shot from the top of the right face off circle, beating Pirates goaltender Jhonas Enroth on the first shot of the game.
Portland answered less than three minutes later.
Nathan Gerbe continues to be one of the lone bright spots in the lineup during the Pirates recent slump. Since coming back from Buffalo, he’s had at least a point in five of the last seven games.
Gerbe added his 18th goal of the season when he spilt the Bruins defense, jabbing the puck past Bruins’ goalie Tuukka Rask at 4:39 of the period.
At 8:02, the Pirates took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Zach Tarkir finished off a centering feed from Mark Mancari, who was behind the net.
The lead only last for 1:33 as Jeremy Reich sent a wrist shot through a screen, beating Enroth, tying the game at 2-2 with 10:25 to play in the opening period.
With 2:32 left in the period, Bruins leading scorer Martins Karsums gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead when he beat Enroth in the slot for his 17th goal of the season.
After scoring five goals in the first period, both teams settled down into a defensive posture for the middle stanza, as the score stayed, 3-2, in the Bruins favor after 40 minutes of play.
In the third period, the Pirates scored three unanswered goals, taking a 5-3 lead over the Bruins.
At 7:38, Gerbe tied the game for Portland, 3-3, when he lifted a backhander by Rask for his 19th goal of season. It was Gerbe’s fourth multi-point game in his last seven games.
The Pirates, who have been miserable on the power play, scored on their only power play of the game at 11:41 of the third period as Marek Zagrapan beat Rask with a one-timer from right face hash mark.
Zagrapan has been on a roll as of late. Since the Pirates returned from the Christmas break, Zagrapan has eight goals, six assists for 14 points in 12 games.
Felix Schutz put the game out of reach for the Bruins with 4:47 left in the game when he redirected Aaron Slattengren’s pass by Rask for his seventh goal of the season.
For the first time in a while, the Pirates received a broad contribution from the player’s who are expected to score. Zagrapan (1g, 1a), Gragnani (3a), Gerbe (2g), and Mancari (2a) all had multi-points on the night.
NOTES: Injuries continue to mount for the Pirates as Dylan Hunter was out with an undisclosed injury and is expected to miss one-to-two weeks. Tyler Bouck, who is back on the ice, skating with his teammates, has not been cleared for game action and most likely won’t see any time this weekend. Tim Kennedy missed his second game due to a hip contusion and listed as day-to-day. Rumors swirling around the NHL that Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen was line for the Carolina Hurricanes job are false. Dineen denied the rumors, stating that he was happy in the city of Portland doesn’t see himself anywhere else for the time being.