Bridgeport, Conn. – It wasn’t the type of weekend the Portland Pirates were looking for, trying to solidify a playoff spot into the Calder Cup playoffs.
For the third time in as many days, the Pirates lose, falling 4-3 to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in front of 5,375 at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Sunday afternoon.
The common factor for the Pirates this weekend has been giving up a goal in the final minute of a period, resulting in a sudden momentum shift in favor of the opposing team, especially after the Pirates play well for the previous 19-plus minutes.
Outshooting the Sound Tigers, 20-7 in the middle period, the Pirates came back to tie the game 3-3, but gave up the eventual game-winning goal with 36 seconds left in the second period.
Jeremy Colliton banked the puck off the board, and out of the zone, to Sean Bentivoglio who just came out of the penalty box after serving a minor penalty for high sticking at 17:18.
Bentivoglio, on a breakaway, deke and beat Pirates’ goalie Kellen Briggs as Bridgeport grabbed the 4-3 lead at 19:24 of the second period.
The opened the scoring early in the first period as Derek Whitmore scored his 11th of season at 3:35 of the first period.
Whitmore picked up a pass from Kyle Rank, snapping a quick wrist shot that appear to change direction as it beat Sound Tigers’ goaltender Peter Mannino to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Mannino, along with Joel Rechlicz and Mike Iggulden were sent down by the Islanders earlier today after they played in Ottawa last night.
Less than two minutes later, Bridgeport came back to take a 2-1 lead, getting a pair of goals from Chris Lee and Trevor Smith within 36 seconds apart.
At 13:39, Michael Haley extended the Sound Tiger lead to 3-1 after he tipped the pass attempt by Tomas Marcinko behind Briggs.
The Pirates added a pair of goals in the second period to tie the game, 3-3, before giving the backbreaking goal to the Sound Tigers.
Marek Zagrapan, playing well in the last few games, scored his 18 of the season when he connected on Colin Murphy’s pass, splitting Bridgeport’s defense, snapping a wrist shot over Mannino, making it a one-goal game at 12:39 of the second period.
At 15:20, Mathieu Darche buried a rebound from in front of the net by Mannino to tie the game at 3-3.
NOTES: The Pirates remained in fourth-place despite the loss as the Worcester Sharks fell to the lowly Springfield Falcons, 2-0, losing their third straight game. Portland, however, did lose ground to the third-place Manchester Monarchs, as they couldn’t hang onto a 2-1 lead to the Hershey Bears, who prevailed, 3-2, in a shootout. What was once thought of as three-team race is once again becoming a four team race for the final two playoff spots in the Atlantic Division as the Lowell Devils only sit three points behind the Pirates for the final playoff spot. Portland will play their remaining schedule against divisional opponents, including a pair of games against the Devils (Mar. 27 @ CCCC; Apr. 3 @ Lowell) and Monarchs (Mar. 28 @ CCCC; Apr. 11 @ Manchester) as well as one final match up against the Sharks on Apr. 8 in Worcester.