Providence, RI – It was just too much for the Portland Pirates to overcome.
A poor first period by the Pirates allowed the Providence to score a pair of first period goals as they grabbed a 4-3 win before a crowd of 7,660 at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Friday night.
The Pirates entered the game in fourth place of the Atlantic Division, only two points ahead of the fifth place Worcester Sharks. Neither team has been able to take advantage of each other misfortune as both teams have lost their last three games.
“Everyone is upset right now because we went from first place in the division to almost being fifth, right now,” said Pirates forward Mark Mancari. “We’ve got to start finding ways to win these games.”
Before the first period was complete the Pirates were down 2-0 as the Bruins got goals from Martin St. Pierre and Jeremy Reich.
The Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead after Vladimir Sobotka dished a cross-ice pass to St. Pierre at the left hash mark where he one timed the shot by Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth at 12:21 of the first period.
With 1:57 left in the period, Providence made it 2-0 as the Pirates made an atrocious turnover deep in their zone Reich, who slid the puck between the legs of Enroth.
“We were hesitant on our defensive coverage and gave their skill players a lot of room,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “When you give guys like that room they’ll take advantage of it.”
So many times this season, the Pirates have not started the game with any emotion or energy, playing flat for the first 20 minutes.
However, once the second period begins, they find their stride, outplaying the opposing team.
Tonight was no different.
Just 1:04 into the period, the Pirates cut the Bruins lead in half, 2-1, as Mathieu Darche was credited with the power play goal, his 14th of the season.
Pirates’ defensemen Mike Kostka took the shot from the top of the left point, but it hit a bunch of bodies, Darche at the top of the crease, batted the puck out of the air into the net.
At 12:55, the Bruins regained their two goal advantage as Sobotka found the back of the net, beating Enroth on a breakaway.
Bruins’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk sent a long pass as Sobotka spilt the Pirates defense, which had just made a change. Sobotka snapped a shot by Enroth as the Bruins took a 3-1 lead.
“There were a couple shifts we look like we didn’t want to play in our own zone,” said Marc-Andre Gragnani. “It looks like everyone wants the puck and if we don’t have it we don’t play defense.”
“It cost us on two of their goals.”
Darche scored his second goal of the night, both on the power play, at 15:14 of the second period as he picked up the loose puck and jammed it by Rask, as the Pirates pulled back to within a goal, 3-2.
Midway into the third period, the Pirates fought back to tie the game at 3-3 as Mancari scored his 24th of the season when he picked up the loose rebound from Marek Zagrapan and threw it at the net, beating a helpless Rask at 12:30 of the period.
“I thought we played a good game, but good isn’t good enough anymore,” said Mancari.
“We’re too close to the end of the season,” he added.
Just 1:20 later, the Bruins pulled out front for good on a bad defensive breakdown by the Pirates.
St. Pierre in the right face off circle sent a cross ice feed to Mikko Lehtonen, who was just above the goal line near the left half boards. He fired a quick shot on a net as Enroth couldn’t get back into position in time to make the save.
“Guys know we didn’t play our best game in the defensive zone and I’m sure will talk about tomorrow morning,” said Gragnani.
“I think everyone is trying to understand (the problems) and we have to fix it quick because the end of the season going to be here — not even a month now,” he said.
“We don’t have time to play around.”
Dineen believes he understands the issue and was blunt in addressing them.
“Bottom line is we didn’t have a full sixty minutes,” he said.
Enroth made 25 saves in the lost, his 11th straight loss.
NOTES: Defenseman Geoff Waugh, who was acquired in a trade with Binghamton on Wednesday, didn’t play tonight. He had missed the last two weeks with a sprained MCL and Dineen wanted to make sure he was 100% healthy before putting him into the lineup. He indicated that Waugh was mostly likely out for the weekend and would return next week. Zach Tarkir returned to the lineup after missing five games with a lower body injury when went down on since Feb. 27 with an ankle sprain.