Buffalo, NY – The Portland Pirates played to their largest crowd in franchise history, but it wasn’t the result they were looking for as the Albany River Rats edged the Pirates, 4-3, in a shootout in front of 11,244 at HSBC Arena.
Despite the shootout loss, Portland took four points out of six on the road trip and now head back to Portland for games on Friday and Saturday against Worcester and Providence, respectively.
“You look at out three games and two of them were in the shootout,” said Pirates’ forward Mark Mancari. “I think our power play is better and if we don’t score, we don’t go into the shootout.”
Nathan Gerbe didn’t disappoint the hometown crowd as he scored his 20th goal of the season at 3:40 of the first period.
Tim Kennedy fed a cross-ice pass to Gerbe, who ripped a one-timer by Rats’ goalie Justin Peters, while on the power play to take a 1-0 lead.
“I was kind of cursed when I was with Buffalo,” said Gerbe. “It was nice to finally score and show the fans that I can score.”
Gerbe was very appreciative of the support by fans that came to the game.
“It was fun,” said Gerbe. “I got a few games here in Buffalo with the Sabres, which was a lot of fun, but coming here with Portland and getting the support that the fans showed.
“It was something special for every player on this team.”
Just over two minutes later, Albany tied the game on a goal by Nick Dodge.
Tim Conboy beat a Pirates defender and slipped the puck to Dodge at the top crease, beating Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth at 5:48 of the period.
Things became real chippy late in the period as Nathan Gerbe and Tim Conboy exchanged words, before Gerbe was battered by several players on the Albany bench before being tackled to the ground by Conboy.
Gerbe was tossed from the game after he was given a game misconduct by referee Jamie Koharski, as Conboy only received 10-minute misconduct as both were also given roughing minors.
“It’s no fun. I came here to play and give the fans a show,” he said. “To go out like that frustrating, but I’m not going to let it bother me.”
Pirates’ coach Kevin Dineen was just as amazed in the call and the lack of an explanation.
“There wasn’t one,” he said. “I’m really proud to be apart of the American Hockey League, but I’m really embarrassed for the league tonight with how that whole game played out.”
“We’re all in the learning stage from coaches, to players, officials and for the fans to see that it’s a shame and for us to lose a guy for us to lose (Gerbe) was a shame.”
The extra curricular activities didn’t stop after Gerbe was thrown out of the game as more tussling took place. There was 164 minutes in penalties on the night.
In the second period, Albany took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Michael Ryan as he beat Enroth on a partial breakaway, flipping over his shoulder into the net at 11:45 of the period.
At 18:15, Tim Kennedy tied the game, 2-2, for Portland as he found the back of the net, beating Peters with a quick shot goal.
After the goal, Ryan slashed Kyle Rank as another scrum ensued.
At 1:44 of the third period, Dodge scored his second goal of the night on Enroth to give Albany a 3-2 lead.
Dodge, in front of Enroth, redirected Jerome Samson’s shot from the left faceoff circle past Enroth for his second goal of the game just 1:44 into the third period.
The Rats lead until 26.9 seconds left in the game as Kyle Rank scored his first goal of the season, redirecting Zach Tarkir slap shot from the high slot.
After a scoreless overtime, the Pirates were shutout in the shootout as Peters stopped all five shots. Jonathan Paiement scored for the River Rats, his second goal in the shootout in as many games for the former Lewiston MAINEiacs.
“You get two shootout losses and those sting a little,” said Dineen. “We’re 0-for-9 in our shootouts over the last four or five days so that is an area that you try to work on day-to-day, but it comes down to a little bit of individualism and a little bit confidence.”
“Our best shootout guy was sitting in the dressing room,” he said referring to Gerbe.
Jhonas Enroth made 24 saves on 27 shots in the lost, while Justin Peters picked up the win, making 28 saves.
NOTES: Nathan Gerbe will be staying in Buffalo a little longer as he was recalled by the Sabres after the game. In 31 games, he’s scored 20 goals, 17 assists for 37 points. This is Gerbe’s second recall this season to the Sabres.