Portland, ME – It’s probably one of the most important goals Mark Mancari has ever scored so far in his career.
With less than a second to play in the game, Mancari’s slap shot found the back of the net, sending the game into overtime where he also scored the lone goal in the shootout as the Portland Pirates prevailed, 3-2, over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in front of 3,313 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on a blustery cold Friday night.
The victory kept Portland in front of Bridgeport in the Atlantic Division by two points as they begin vying for a spot in the playoffs, something not lost on the Pirates as they pressed the play, outshooting Bridgeport by almost a two-to-one margin, 46-25.
“You don’t want to sit back and wait for mistakes,” said Mancari. “Every point for us right now is very important and all the guys in the room know that. This is a big weekend for us.”
Mancari’s goal came as a result of Portland getting a late two-man advantage for the rest of the game.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen pulled goalie Jhonas Enroth for the remaining 55 seconds, giving the Pirates a 6-on-3.
Through a screen, Mancari blasted a laser from the top of the point, beating Sound Tigers’ goalie Scott Munroe between the legs.
“Hard work pays off and the all the guys worked extremely hard to make that play happen,” said Mancari. “Larsen did a heck of a job in front of the net… all the guys moving the puck extremely well.”
Portland had numerous chances at winning the game in regulation, but ran into a solid netminder in Scott Munroe, who stopped Tyler Ennis on a penalty shot attempt in the second period.
Munroe made 44 saves on the night, a lot of the time, stopping the Pirates on their second and third chances around the goal.
“He played a hell of a game tonight,” said Mancari. “He was a great goalie, but you have to give their D-corps some credit too. They cleared the puck. He made the first stop; sometimes the second and they were there to help him out.”
Of course, the Pirates might not have been in the position to win if it wasn’t Jhonas Enroth. More than once, he stood tall including in the shootout where he stopped all five shooters.
“We had to take it right to the end to score in regulation and Jhonas had to come up with that last big save in the shootout,” said Dineen. “He earned his money tonight in that shootout. To stop five in a row is a pretty worthy effort by him.”
Enroth has struggled against the Sound Tigers this season, going 0-3 with a 3.33 goals against and .861 save percentage.
Yet, he was persistent in getting over the hump against the Sound Tigers.
“We had a discussion this week about what we’re going to do against this team,” said Dineen. “He (Enroth) was fairly adamant that he want to get in the net… At the end of the day I was the one who made the decision and felt with his enthusiasm that he would be the right guy for this game.”
Bridgeport opened the scoring in the game with a shorthanded goal when Lisbon native Greg Moore tapped pass from Sean Bentivoglio in the slot by Enroth at 12:24 of the first period.
Just a 1:20 later, the Pirates responded with a power play goal as Brad Larsen redirected a shot from Tyler Ennis over the shoulder of Munroe, tying the game at 1-1.
That game remained that way until late in the third period when Mark Flood scored from point at 16:07 of the period as Bridgeport grabbed a 2-1 lead.
All the Pirates could was to continue to press the play as they’d done for the previous 56 minutes.
“They’re a team that backchecks very well,” said Dineen. “A lot of the time they gobble up our second rush so really the way to generate offense is to try and put pucks on the net and see if you can create traffic off the rebounds. I felt like we eventually started to do that and things started to fall in a positive way after that.”
NOTES: The Pirates were without Cody McCormick, Dennis Persson, Drew Schiestel and Nathan Gerbe due to injuries. McCormick, Persson and Gerbe are all listed as day-to-day, while Schiestel is going to be out for about a month with a lower body injury according to Dineen.