Portland, ME — The Portland Pirates did something they haven’t done in nearly two years.
Win a playoff game.
Even Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen had suffered semi-amnesia as to when the Pirates last won a playoff game.
“Thanks for the reminder on that one,” Dineen said half jokingly.
The Pirates scored three times in the first period against the Connecticut Whale and then held on for a scantly, 3-2, victory before 2,171 at the Cumberland County Civic Center to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Atlantic Division semifinal series over the Connecticut Whale.
Portland entered the game looking for their first playoff win since 2009 when they defeated the Bruins, 3-0, in Providence in Game 1 of the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Marek Zagrapan scored two goals in the contest. Felix Schutz scored the other.
“I feel we tried to put together a team here that was high on character, high on understanding on what these kind of games are about,” said Dineen. “We still have got a long way to go. We’ve got three more wins to take care of in this series.”
After building a 3-0 lead in the first period, Portland, which has been a habit, sat back in the second period, allowing Connecticut to regroup and score the lone goal of the period.
Connecticut defenseman Blake Parlett worked his way below the Pirates defense, firing a shot on netminder David Leggio and then pouncing on rebound as it deflected off his right leg into the net at the 5:03 mark of period.
Despite allowing the only goal of the period, Leggio, who had struggled toward the end of the regular season, stood tall, making several spectacular saves en route to his first AHL win.
“To get three goals early, that dictated the type of game we were going to play down the stretch,” said Leggio. “We went through a rou
gh stretch as a team, but the regular season was over in my mind once that goal went in on Sunday in overtime (against Springfield). The regular season was over. It’s playoff time. It’s not about winning one game. It’s about winning four games and that’s where my focus turned to immediately.”
Connecticut pulled to within a goal with 6:57 in the game when Dale Wiese blasted a slap shot from about 10 feet out in the slot, blowing the water bottle of the net.
“We got ourselves back into the game,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “That’s all well and good. But we’ll get together tomorrow and focus on how we’re going to have to play the next 60 minutes, and we’ll build from there.”
The first period got off to a rather mundane start until the Pirates jumped on scoreboard first, scoring three goals in a span of 2:53 including a pair of power play goals to take a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Rookie Luke Adam took a feed from Paul Byron driving to the net from the right side, sweeping the puck around Whale goalie Dov Grumet-Morris, giving Portland a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, Corey Tropp made 2-0 streaking down the right side, snapping a shot over the shoulder of Grumet-Morris.
At 16:40, Colin Stuart capped off the scoring when fired a quick wrist shot from the left circle past Grummet-Morris to cap off the scoring for the Pirates.
“I sure would like to hang onto a 3-0 lead, but give credit to your opponents,” Dineen said. “They play hard, and there’s some lessons to learn for us.”
Portland finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play, while Connecticut went 0-for-4.
NOTES: Pirates forward Dennis McCauley sat out the game due to a right shoulder injury. He’s still listed day-to-day, but is expected to see action at some point in the series.