Portland, ME – Derek Whitmore scored two goals and David Leggio made 21 saves for the Portland Pirates first shutout of the season with a 3-0 victory over the Connecticut Whale before 3,448 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Friday night.
It was Leggio’s first career AHL shutout in his first full season in the league and only his third start in net for the Pirates since the beginning of December.
“It’s not hard to stay ready on this team because the guys practice hard,” said Leggio. “They help me stay as game ready as possible and especially when they play as well defensively as they did tonight that makes it a lot easier too.”
The Pirates, defensively, played one of their best games of the year, rebounding from perhaps one of their worst games on Tuesday night after allowing five goals on 28 shots.
“I liked the overall effort,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen, Tonight, I think there was definitely a different tone (from Tuesday) that we came hard, we press the attack, made smart plays. It was a very complete game for us. The intensity level was higher and hence you end up with the win.”
With 27 seconds remaining the first period, the Pirates jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Dennis McCauley set up the play, falling to the ice, from behind the net, dishing the puck to the front where captain Matt Ellis crashed the net and slammed the puck past Whale goalie Cameron Talbot.
“I think the (team) played one of the best of the year without a doubt especially considering how talented Connecticut is,” said Leggio.
Derek Whitmore extended the Pirates lead to 2-0 at the 4:25 mark of the second period with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that beat Talbot over his glove on the left side of the net.
“We’re playing really well five-on-five,” said Whitmore. “The power play has not been helping us out much, but were winning games, a lot of credit to the defensive zone play, and what we’re doing five-on-five we getting contributions from everywhere.”
With 2:03 left in the game, Whitmore scored his second goal of the night, his 13th of the season, pushed to the outside, beating Michael Del Zotto, first round draft pick (#20 overall ) of the New York Rangers.
Forward Mark Parrish was back into the lineup for the first time since Nov. 26 after missing 19 games with a right hip injury.
“It’s nice to have Mark Parrish back in the lineup after six weeks,” said Dineen. “We still have Gongalsky out with a concussion and that’s always frustrating.”
Getting Parrish in the lineup prompted the move, sending rookie Jacob Lagace to Greenville (S.C.) of the ECHL. Lagace had only 10 points (2G, 8A) in 29 games, playing predominantly on the fourth line.
“I couldn’t find him ice time,” Dineen said. “I think he has a long way to go to become a complete player at the (AHL) level, and he’s got lot of learning to do. This is the first of his many steps to get there. We did to get him some ice time and get his compete level higher.”
The Pirates, who fell to Connecticut in overtime in the first two meetings of the year, moved into sole possession of second place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with 49 points, two points ahead of Connecticut.
“It’s a big win,” said Whitmore. “(Connecticut) is right behind us in the standings. It’s nice to get the two points this time instead of the one.