Portland, ME – Mistakes proved to be costly for the Portland Pirates.
As a result, the Pirates fell to the Albany River Rats, 4-2, in front of 4,597 at the Cumberland County Civic Center, losing back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since early in the season.
It was back on Nov. 11 when the Pirates last lost back-to-back games as they were in the midst of a 5-10-0 record and were the doormat of the American Hockey League.
Since that time, the Pirates turned a corner going 27-6-5-3 over the last 41 games and found themselves tied for a first place in the Atlantic Division with the Worcester Sharks, going into Wednesday’s game with the Sharks.
They lose 3-1, dropping them out of first place, as the team looked visibly tired.
Tonight, the Pirates still looked tired as several mistakes led to goals, but Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen wasn’t using that as an excuse.
“We’re done talking about fatigue,” he said. “We’re done talking about fatigue being a factor in our game. The games are on schedule and (we’ve) got to play them.”
The Pirates found themselves down 1-0 in the first period after a turnover by a Pirates’ defender to Jacob Macflikier led to a Matt Pistilli goal as Macflikier slid the puck across the crease, and into the net, beating Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth.
It looked like Portland would rebound a short time later as Marc-Andre Gragnani scored while on a two-man advantage as he ripped a slap shot by Justin Peters at 5:24 of the first period.
At 11:45, the Pirates took the lead when Paul Byron found the back of the net, converting on a one-timer from Derek Whitmore, who dished the puck into the slot from behind the net.
Byron was playing for the first time since Feb. 2, missing 10 games with a leg injury.
It appeared the second period was going to be a scoreless one, but Albany tied the game at 2-2 with 36 seconds left as turnover in the slot caught Enroth out of position as he could never recover as Bryan Rodney dished the puck to Drayson Bowman, who had an open net to shoot at.
“Its game 59 of an 80 game schedule and we played like it was,” said Dineen. “I thought they outworked us in a lot of ways.”
The River Rats regained the lead midway into the third period when Brad Herauf slid the puck by Enroth, as yet again, another turnover by the Pirates led to the goal, giving the River Rats a 3-2 lead.
“We were sloppy tonight and it cost us,” said Dineen. “There are times you can get away with it, but (Albany) didn’t leave a whole lot of bounces to be had.”
“(Albany) had a solid game and we didn’t respond well to that.”
The River Rats added an empty net goal with 21 seconds left in the game, giving them a 4-2 lead, sending the Pirates to their third loss in their last four games.
“Most teams in the league are feeling pretty good to see us lose a couple (games), and you’ve got to stop the bleeding and give more of a 60 minute effort to get a better outcome on the scoreboard.”
NOTES: The Pirates were without Kyle Wanvig (upper body), Matt Generous, Dennis Persson and Nathan Gerbe. Dineen said they are looking to ease Gerbe back into the lineup to avoid a future chance of injury to his groin.