Portland, ME – One night after the Portland Pirates failed to hold onto a three-goal lead into the third period, the Pirates rebounded from their mistakes building a cushion in the Atlantic Division playoff race en route to a 6-1 win over the Lowell Devils in front of 5,460 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday afternoon.
The Pirates now hold a five-point advantage over the Devils and sit two points behind Hartford for second-place in the division.
Despite the lopsided score, the game wasn’t without plenty of extracurricular activities on both sides as both teams amassed 136 minutes in penalties, including 108 in the third period alone.
It should make for a hot ticket when they meet again at the Colisée in Lewiston on Mar. 14.
The ruckus began after the Pirates made it 6-1 on a goal by Mathieu Darche at 9:21 of the third period. As Darche scored, Nathan Gerbe finished his check on Mark Fraser, who took exception to hit. The result was a melee that saw Pierre-Luc Leblond accosting Gerbe.
Shortly after the face-off, Pirates enforcer Jimmy Bonneau was sent out to maintain the peace, but what resulted was a brawl by both teams after Bonneau ran into Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen.
“It was an unfortunate that had happened because I don’t think its fun for anybody, to play in that or watch it,” said Pirates’ captain Tyler Bouck. “Gerbe made a great hit on their captain (Fraser) and he took exception and came back at (Gerbe). After that goal, they just jump Gerbe and (Bonneau) sees Leblond go after Gerbe, and he takes exception with it.”
“That was just a donkey fest.”
Several players were ejected from the game for their conduct as was Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen, who ejected for his verbal abuse of an official. He was involved in a shouting match with Devils head coach Kurt Kleinendorst both climbed the dasher boards in a heated exchange.
It’s possible the league will hand down supplementary discipline.
One player that could see time off is Leblond after making several throat-slashing gestures toward the Pirates penalty box.
“It was a dangerous situation out there,” Dineen said. “Our player’s were physically in danger and you have to control it some how. You hope that it was taken care of in other means, but when you feel that your players are in danger as things got out of hand and we’re just trying to finish things out.”
Kellen Briggs overcame the rough play of the night making 33 saves in the win. It was his second straight win for the Pirates has he allowed only one goal in his last game, 2-1 over Worcester.
“Our goaltending has been good the last four games,” said Dineen. “It’s been good enough for us to win and we really made the effort to get the right guys here and it paid off for us tonight.”
The Pirates started the scoring in the first period when Felix Schutz scored his 11th of the season.
Schutz, skating across the slot, found Derek Whitmore’s shot on his stick as he spun around and lifted the puck underneath the crossbar, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead at 4:17 of the first period.
A little over a minute later, the Pirates made it 2-0 when Dylan Hunter took a cross-ice pass from Bouck, firing a low snap shot by Clemmensen at 5:32 of the period.
“(Last night) was a learning experience, but we did a good job getting pucks deep and going after loose pucks,” said Bouck. “We did a good job coming at them.”
At 11:13, Colton Fretter scored an unassisted goal at ripped a quick shot, beating Clemmensen between the legs as the Pirates took a 3-0 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes of play.
It was the Pirates third goal on their fourth shot of the game.
With both teams skating four-on-four, the Pirates made it 4-0 as Kenny MacAuley scored on a give-and-go with Mark Mancari at 11:37 of the second period.
In the third period, Lowell finally got on the board Nicklas Bergfors put the rebound past Briggs, in the slot at 1:11 of the period.
Last night, the Wolf Pack scored early in the third period and the wheels came off for Portland, but tonight they regained their focus and only 37 seconds later, Aaron Slattengren scored his ninth of the season, ripping a one timer by Clemmensen at 1:48 of the period.
“Coming off a lead and not finishing it off and leads us to really bearing down in all areas,” said Dineen. “It’s one of those things we have to learn. We thought we learned three weeks ago against Worcester and gave up a lead. It just a matter of bearing down and I thought we did better job at that tonight.”