Portland, ME – The Portland Pirates collected two points in their race toward a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, but they certainly weren’t happy how they accomplished it.
After building a 3-0, the Pirates needed a late third period goal by Tim Kennedy to defeat the lowly Springfield Falcons, 4-3, in Sunday afternoon action at the MassMutual Center before 3,899 who were in attendance.
It was the Pirates third game in as many days.
“It one of those Sunday afternoon games where you run out of energy and don’t play very well,” said Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen. “We’re not pleased with the process, but we’re happy with the outcome.”
The Falcons (23-40-7-4) currently sit in the basement of the Atlantic Division and can only play spoiler for the rest of the season as they’ve earned a point in six of their last nine games (4-3-0-2), and the Pirates almost gave another point away tonight.
“(Springfield) is playing for pride and their playing for jobs,” said Colin Murphy. “They’re a hard working team and it showed in the second period.”
“We can’t let that keep happening.”
With the Pirates up 3-0, the Falcons struck in the late stages of the first period when Cory Urquhart redirect a shot from Han Benson behind Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth with 1:12 left.
At 6:36 of the second period, the Falcons pulled to within a goal, 3-2, as Bryan Young scored his second goal of the season when he crashed the front of the net, putting Guillaume Lefebvre’s shot from the right face off circle by Enroth.
It was only Young’s second professional goal in his third pro season.
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton’s first round draft pick (22nd overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft completed the comeback for the Falcons when he tied the game, 3-3, with his first career AHL goal at 16:15 of the second period.
The Falcons carried a 3-on-2 rush into the offensive zone when Ryan Stone spotted Eberle in the slot, Pirates’ forward Nathan Gerbe was backchecking Eberle, but was out of gas, allowing Eberle to snap a quick past Enroth.
It’s the fifth time this season; the Pirates have allowed the opposition to get back into the game when leading by three or more goals.
“We definitely find a way to making it interesting,” said Pirates’ captain Tyler Bouck.
In a game that appeared to be heading for overtime, and the Falcons earning at least another point, playing the role of spoiler, Tim Kennedy netted the game-winner with 4:14 left in the game.
Kennedy ripped a shot from the right hash mark that sailed over Falcons’ goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s glove as the Pirates regained the lead, 4-3.
Dennis Persson, Sabres’ 2006 first round pick, scored his first AHL point with an assist on the play as he fed the puck to Kennedy from the top of the left circle.
“We’ve played so well the first two periods and built those 3-0 leads, but then we think it’s going to be an easy game and that’s what killed us,” said Bouck. “It was nice to see us stick with it in the third period.”
The Pirates opened the scoring in the first period as Mathieu Darche scored a power play goal at 10:16 of the first period. Tim Kennedy fed the puck to Darche, who lifted a backhand shot by the short side of Dubnyk, giving Portland a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates power play continues to click as of late, going 12-for-35 in their last seven games.
Just a minute later at 11:16, Colton Fretter made it 2-0 when he let a blast go from the blueline, beating Dubnyk as it looked like the Pirates were in full control.
At 15:18, Felix Schutz added his 14th goal of the season when he drove to the net from left circle, snapping a quick shot that foiled Dubnyk as the Falcons were left reeling at that point.
“You see teams like that spoil it for so many teams,” said Bouck. “A lot of the times you go into those games thinking that they aren’t in the playoffs and they aren’t going to want to play and that’s the way it looked for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the game and then (Springfield) came on like gangbusters.”
The Pirates understand at this time of the season they must be playing their best hockey if they want to make the playoffs, as nothing is a given in the standings. The Worcester Sharks down, 2-0, came storming back, scoring three third period goals as they beat the Providence Bruins, 5-3. The Sharks remain two points behind the Pirates, but hold the fourth and final playoff spot because the Manchester Monarchs did not play.
“We’re in fifth-place on Thursday and by the end of Sunday we are in third-place and it can change that quickly,” Dineen said. “Take care of your own fate and don’t worry about other people.”
NOTES: It was the first time since Jan. 23 – Jan. 30 when the Pirates defeated Bridgeport in a pair of games, followed by Providence at the Dunkin Donuts Center.