Portland, ME – It was that kind of night for the Portland Pirates.
A little luck and solid special teams helped propel them to a 4-3 win over the Providence Bruins before a near-sellout crowd of 6,626 for a Tuesday night AHL contest at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The win snapped the Pirates three-game losing streak.
The Pirates have struggled on the power play this season – ranked 24th entering the night at 15.6% – but showed little issues as they went 3-for-5 on the night.
“Special teams was obviously the difference in the hockey game tonight,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen said. “We scored some goals on the power play, and that’s a nice feeling for our group. Half the job on the power play is a confidence thing. When you believe in the things that have worked, good things follow from there.”
Likewise, the Providence Bruins is a paltry 11.9% which is second to last in the American Hockey League and it didn’t get any better as Portland kept the Bruins off the board in five-of-six attempts with the man advantage.
Some credit can go to Pirates goalkeeper Jhonas Enroth, who made 24 saves for the win including stopping 15 of 16 shots in the first period.
“He’s been unreal,” said Pirates forward Colin Stuart. “You need a goaltender like that to weather the storm especially when we didn’t have the best start in the world. He really kept us in the game tonight, for sure.”
The Pirates began game rather sluggish, looking like a team that had gone nine days in between games, as they gave up four of the first five power play’s to the Bruins.
With the Corey Tropp in the box serving four minutes for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct, Providence grabbed a 1-0 lead on Jamie Arniel’s 14th of the season when he slid the rebound past Enroth just inside the right post at 13:15 of the first period.
“You spend eight minutes in the (penalty) box and it’s going to cost you,” said Dineen. “It’s going to wear down your penalty killers. We need to show some discipline and stick with the program.”
“We looked like we were full of turkey and stuffing,” Dineen added on his team’s nine-day layoff. “It was a long holiday, and it really took us a while to get our legs going. It’s something you’re always aware of.”
Mark Mancari would tie the game at 1-1 with 39 seconds left in the first period after a goalmouth scramble left the puck just at the top of the crease where he slammed it over a sprawled out P-Bruins goalie Michael Hutchinson.
At 3:01 of the second period, Matt Bartkowski scored a goal on Enroth that he wished he could take back as Bartkowski just floated the puck along the ice through a patch of bodies into the net, giving Providence a 2-1 lead.
Just like the first period, the Pirates would get a late period power play with Yury Alexandrov heading to the box with 54 seconds left in the period for holding the stick.
It proved to a costly penalty as Paul Byron once again tied the game, at 2-2, when he fired a laser beam from the right point, hitting the opposite corner of the net with only seven seconds left until the buzzer.
The Pirates took the lead early in the third period on a nifty pass play by defenseman Tim Conboy as he sent a centering feed to Dennis McCauley in the slot, beating Hutchinson just 1:13 into the period.
Colin Stuart made it 4-2 midway into the game after throwing the puck in front that hit a Bruins’ player stick, going into the net.
Late in the period, the Bruins pulled to within goal as Max Sauvé snapped a shot by Enroth with less than three minutes to play.
“It just goes back to the old adage that you make your own luck,” Stuart said. “We’ve had some tough breaks along the way, which over the course of an 80-game schedule is going to happen. We just try to focus on working hard.”
“It’s definitely nice to get a few breaks.”