Portland, ME — After an 11 game stretch where the Portland Pirates hadn’t lost a game in regulation, the Providence Bruins changed that by handing Portland a 4-3 defeat in front 4,095 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday night.
The Pirates last regulation loss came in a game back on Nov. 11, a 6-1 defeat to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Wachovia Arena.
At the time, the Pirates were 5-10-0 and sitting in the basement of the American Hockey League.
“It’s was key to get those points to get us out of the basement,” said Pirates’ forward Derek Whitmore. “Everything is must win for now because the start we had at the beginning of the year.”
Portland spotted the Bruins a 2-0 lead early in first period as Trent Whitfield notched a pair of goals. The two goals by Whitfield placed him into a prestigious category as the 76th player to record 500 points in the American Hockey League’s 74 year existence.
Ironically, it came at a place where Whitfield spent the majority of his AHL career, playing for the Pirates from 1998 to 2005. In 631 games, Whitfield has 202 goals, 299 assists for 501 points.
Cody McCormick put the Pirates on the board only 27 seconds after Whitfield scored his second goal of the night, when he grabbed Paul Byron’s pass at the blueline and wired a laser over the glove of Bruins’ netminder Dany Sabourin.
“We played a pretty solid game,” said Whitmore. “The goals against could have been avoidable by better decisions with the puck.”
“That been our achilles heel this year is our starts. We can’t keep spotting team (leads) and playing from behind.”
At 13:34, the Pirates tied the game at 2-2 as Derek Whitmore found the back of the net, snapping a shot from the slot by Sabourin.
It was Whitmore’s first game in the lineup since being out of the lineup for the last two games, something that he didn’t necessarily agree with.
“It’s no fun to watch your teammates play when you know you can be out there contributing,” said Whitmore. “I felt like I was playing well enough to stay in the lineup, but the coaching staff had decisions to make.”
The Bruins regained the lead a short time later as TJ Brennan turned the puck over deep in the Pirates end to Jordan Knackstedt, who stuffed it by Pirates’ goalie Patrick Lalime with 3:46 left in the period.
“That’s the nature of our team,” said Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen. “We’re seeing some things creep back into our game that we haven’t seen in two or three weeks and there is a level of frustration there that what we are doing is working when we put in the work.”
Lalime, making his final start in his reconditioning stint with the Pirates, made four saves on seven shots in the first 20 minutes of play.
In the second period, the Pirates came back to tie the game for a second time, this time with a power play goal at 10:17 as Nathan Gerbe found Kyle Wanvig inside the left circle, where he ripped a shot under the crossbar.
“I give my good player a lot of leeway,” said Dineen. I try to put them in situations where they can try score.”
Providence returned the favor in the middle stages of the third period with a power play goal of their own.
The Bruins were working the puck down low and Mikko Lehtonen sent a crisp pass to Brad Marchand, who fired a one-timer by Lalime with 11:36 to play in the game.
The Pirates had plenty of chances to tie the game including a late game power play, however they couldn’t find the back of the net, especially the Pirates top players.
“I think their good players played better than our skilled players. Paul Byron has been good for the last week, but I need more out my other guys,” said Dineen.
Lalime stopped 22 of 26 shots, while Dany Sabourin made 26 saves for the win.