Portland, ME – It was an embarrassing night all the way around for the Portland Pirates, losing the Binghamton Senators, 3-1, as they face hard realization that making the playoffs may not become a reality.
The Pirates dropped their second game in a row as they’ve fallen to 2-5-2-1 in their last 10 games.
A point that hasn’t been lost on some in the Pirates locker room.
“You don’t make the playoffs by playing well, you make the playoffs because you win games,” said Pirates’ forward Mathieu Darche. “It’s been the story of our season. We play a bad first period and we bring it on in the third, but it’s always to little too late.”
Another point not lost on the Pirates is the fact that they haven’t had a winning record since the end of November, going 16-18-2-5, including 4-4-2-4 in the month of February.
“It a pretty frustrating locker room, right now,” said Derek Whitmore. “It’s our playoffs right now. We were thinking we were ahead of the pack and we haven’t been since November and we’re fighting for our lives.”
“It’s up to the guys in the locker room which way they want to go.”
The Pirates steady decline now has them in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 69 points, only two points ahead of the fifth place Worcester Sharks, who have a game in hand. (Worcester will play Binghamton tomorrow, while the Pirates are off til Friday)
Binghamton opened the scoring at 14:34 of the first period when the puck squirted free from a pack of players in the right face-off circle. Bryan McGregor spotted the loose puck, backhanding past Pirates’ goalie Kellen Briggs to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.
At 4:14 of the second period, Matt Taormina finished off a nifty cross-ice pass from Ilya Zubov, for the one-timer from the left face-off circle, beating Briggs as the Senators grabbed a 2-0 lead.
“You out shoot (Binghamton) by 13 shots, I think the tone of the game certainly wasn’t lopsided, it was blasé and with 15 games to go there wasn’t much urgency,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen.
The Pirates finally got on the board late in the second period as Derek Whitmore scored his ninth of the season.
Marc-Andre Gragnani fed the puck to Whitmore in the high-slot as he ripped a shot through a screen, beating Senators’ goalie Jeff Glass as the Pirates pulled to within one goal.
Portland has been a team riddled with injuries all season, especially on defense, tonight was no exception as the Pirates skated with five defensemen as Matt Macdonald is out for an extended period of time with a lower body injury.
“It’s tough… we’re taxing a lot of minutes on some guys,” said Darche. “It’s not ideal. I wish we had six (defensemen), I mean I wish we had eight (defensemen) so we could make decisions every game.”
“We can’t use that as an excuse. Does it help us? No, but we can’t use that as an excuse.”
Because of the lack depth, the Pirates were left with using forward Nathan Gerbe on the blueline as he saw extended time on defense in the third period.
“With his speed, he has some on-ice intelligence, which gives him the ability to play as a defenseman,” said Dineen. “I think he did a fine job out there.”
The Senators put the game out of reach for Portland at 3:14 of the final period as team leading goal-scorer Denis Hamel, scored his 23rd of the season on a power play.
Matt Pope put the puck on net as Hamel crashed the crease, sneaking the puck by Briggs for the power play goal.
Binghamton went 1-for-2 on the night, while Portland was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
Briggs made 23 saves on 26 shots in the loss, while Jeff Glass had an impressive night making 38 saves on 39 shots for the win.
NOTES: The Pirates are schedule to submit their Clear Day roster to the AHL office by 3pm tomorrow. Dineen said that he still has several items to work through with Buffalo and it was going to be a long day on the phones. Last Wednesday at the NHL Trade D-day, Chris Butler was assigned to Portland for a few hours to make him eligible to play on the Pirates roster. If he had not been assigned within 14 days of the Clear Day roster, he would have been ruled ineligible to play for Portland for the rest of the regular season and playoffs. The Clear Day roster isn’t affected by players who signed ATO’s when their junior or collegiate season is complete.