Portland, ME – The Portland Pirates nearly let one get away on Saturday night before Derek Whitmore’s goal in the third period gave the Pirates a 5-4 win over the Adirondack Phantom in front of 5,318 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The win extended the Pirates win streak to eight games, their longest this season.
“It’s great for the team,” said Pirates forward Derek Whitmore. “We just can’t get complacent. We’ve clawed into a playoff spot after the start of the year, but we still can’t be satisfied.”
It appeared that it might be an easy night for the Pirates after they jumped out to a 4-1 lead early into the second period on Mark Mancari’s breakaway goal, but Adirondack had a different plan in mind, scoring three unanswered goals in the second period.
At 6:30 into the second period, Stefan Legein fired a one-timer by Pirates goalie Jhonas Enroth from the right faceoff circle, cutting into the Pirates lead, 4-1.
A little more than three minutes later, the Phantoms pulled to within a goal, 4-3, after Enroth mishandled the puck in front of the net allowing Mika Pyorala to tip the puck out of the air into an open net at 9:38 of the second period.
Another defensive mistake by the Pirates allowed the Phantoms to tie the game at 4-4 after a turnover in front of Enroth led to a goal by Pat Maroon at 14:48 of the second period.
“We had a really solid first period and the score I think reflected that,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “We came out ready to play. I think in the second period when you get two goals unassisted, or assisted by us that tells the tale.”
“It had to do with a lot of turnovers by us.”
With 8:59 to play in the game, the Pirates regained the lead after a broken play led to the offensive chance.
With the Pirates on a power play, Mark Mancari attempted to fire a shot from the high slot, only to have his stick shatter, and the puck flutter into the corner where Ennis grabbed the puck, skating into the left corner where he tried to pass it Brad Larsen, but it squirted to Derek Whitmore as he fired a backdoor shot by Phantoms netminder Johan Backlund.
“We have skilled guys out there like Tyler (Ennis) out there to make those plays,” said Whitmore.
Portland opened the scoring in the game early in the first period after Marc-Andre Gragnani fired a slap shot along the ice, beating Backlund for the power play goal at 3:04 of the first period.
After Adirondack tied the game, 1-1, on a goal from Sean Curry, the Pirates jumped out front scoring a pair of goals in a span of 1:26, building a 3-1 lead after one period of play.
Tyler Ennis scored his 17th goal of the season after he snapped a shot from the right faceoff circle, beating Backlund at 17:04 of the first period.
Ennis tied his season high for points in a game with four (1g, 3a) as he continues to lead all rookies with 17 goals, 33 assists for 50 points in 52 games.
“Right now, if you play anybody with Mark Mancari, Tyler Ennis or Brad Larsen they are going to have success,” said Dineen.
NOTES: The Pirates started the game with 17 skaters as Jeff Cowan and Joe DiPenta were out due to the flu. Dineen said they’d be game-time decision for Monday’s game against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Pirates’ defenseman Dennis Persson returned to the lineup after missing the last six games due to injury.