Portland, ME – The Portland Pirates and Providence Bruins each had their own reasons for playing with a sense of desperation.
The Bruins were playing to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, while the Pirates were trying to snap a four-game home-losing streak.
Pirates’ goaltender David Leggio rebounded on the heels of a poor outing with a 28-save effort to earn his third shutout of the season, 3-0, over the Bruins before 3,872 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Leggio allowed five goals last Saturday in a 5-3 loss to Charlotte, and wasn’t very happy after the game with his performance.
“Any time you let in five goals, I don’t care if they had five-on-zeros, it doesn’t matter, your pride takes a hit,” said Leggio. “You want to come back with a great effort. The Worcester game was very disappointing and we came out in the game against Charlotte and I don’t think I played my best.”
“Whether you win or lose you need to forget about the last game, and refocus on the next shot. That’s what I tried to do.”
After winning four-straight home games to start the month of March, the Pirates faltered over their last four games on home ice, going 0-3-1, leaving the team to take a look at themselves for hard answers.
“As team you can kind of feel that everything is going really well and everyone is feeling great and then you start making plays that worked for us the last couple of games, and aren’t working now,” said Pirates forward Mark Parrish. “We have to get back to simplify our game and getting back to basics and what was working for us.”
Apparently, the Pirates found the answer as they battled to score two quick goals in the first five minutes of the game.
“It was a full team commitment,” said Parrish. “You could see everybody was skating to support the puck. Even when there was collapses and there was turnovers and breakdowns, guys were hurrying back really well to where nothing really came of it.”
“(Leggio) played a fantastic game.”
Just three and a half minutes into the game, the Pirates started the scoring as Dennis McCauley deflected a shot by defenseman Nick Crawford over Providence netminder Anton Khudobin, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, the Pirates made it 2-0 when Nick Tuzzolino recorded his first professional AHL goal when he finished off a feed f
rom Mark Voakes with a shot from inside the left hash-mark by Khudobin.
Voakes, who Tuzzolino credited with setting up the goal, continues his hot play with the Pirates with yet another point. In his 12 games with the Pirates, he’s scored six goals, four assists for 10 points and is making a case to land a job full-time in the AHL next season.
“I found a hole and Voakes was wide open and hit me with a great pass. If I missed that one I’d be pretty upset with myself,” said Tuzzolino.
The Pirates, skating with five defensemen because Tim Conboy was not in the lineup due to an undisclosed injury, had to hold off a rush by the Bruins in the second period as a loss by Providence meant elimination from the playoff contention.
“We were playing a pretty desperate team,” said Pirates asst. coach Eric Weinrich. “They’ve been playing well lately, and their goaltender has been playing well. We stuck to some good details that we worked on this week and it was pretty strong start for us.”
With 55 seconds left in the game, Pirates defenseman TJ Brennan extended his lead among defensemen in the AHL with his 15th goal of the season, moving him to within two goals of former Pirate Patrick Boileau’s record for goals in a season by a defensemen, which set back in 2001-’02.
Mark Parrish, along with Paul Byron was credited with assists on the play, extending his point-streak to 10 games with six goals, 10 assists for 16 points during that span.
Portland got their penalty kill back on track, killing off all three attempts by the Bruins; however, the power play continues to give the Pirates issues as they went 0-for-3 which included an extended five-on-three late in the third period.
“The guys are really working hard on it,” said Weinrich. “When things don’t seem to go well they snowball, but we’re just going to keep plugging away because the power play has won us a lot of games this year.”
NOTES: The magic number for the Pirates to clinch the division is now eight points. There is a potential of Saturday’s game in Manchester being a game where the Pirates can clinch the division. If the Pirates win on Wednesday against Bridgeport followed by a Manchester loss on Friday night in Worcester, a win in regulation on Saturday against the Monarchs would seal the division title for the Pirates for the first time since 2005-’06.