Portland, ME – The Portland Pirates felt as they didn’t lose a game instead they gave the Binghamton Senators a victory in Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals.
Zach Smith scored midway into the third period to give the Senators a 3-2 win before a friend’s and family crowd of 1,518 at the Cumberland County Civic Center to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“It’s a pretty simple game,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “When you have the puck you want to keep it on your stick. If you’re continuously giving it back to them. They’re just going to keep coming at you.”
“There is a level of composure that we certainly didn’t have (tonight) as the game wore on. As well as they played, a lot of it gets hung on us. Our puck management wasn’t good tonight.”
The win was Binghamton’s first victory in regulation during this year’s Calder Cup playoffs as they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Manchester Monarchs in seven games, advancing to play the Pirates.
“I was thinking during the third period we’re going to overtime,” said Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst. “It’s just the way it’s been with us. It could have gone either way. We got a little bit of a break on our goal.”
With the game tied at 2-2, the Senators took advantage of a rather fortuitous bounce as Smith picked up his own rebound, threw a backhander by Pirates starting netminder David Leggio across the crease, hitting Tim Conboy’s leg to go into the net at the 7:35 mark of the third period.
Leggio getting the start in place of Jhonas Enroth, who assigned to Portland on Wednesday by the Buffalo Sabres after they were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, made 40 saves in the contest.
“Goaltending wasn’t the issue tonight,” said Dineen. “We know they have skilled players on their team and they’re going to get some opportunities. You’re going to have to have your goaltender play big. I didn’t have a problem with the goaltending.”
The Pirates received several bodies in the lineup as Pirates captain Matt Ellis joined Enroth, along with Mark Mancari and Dennis Persson back from the Sabres, but the impact was negligible on night. It something the Senators recognized and wanted to take advantage of.
“There are guys that haven’t settled from coming down (from Buffalo),” said Kleinendorst. “It’s a big adjustment so it’s something we wanted to take advantage of.”
The Pirates opened the scoring in the first period to hold a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes as Max Legault’s hard work paid off in front of the net, as he shoveled the rebound by Sens’ netminder Robin Lehner at 4:27 of the first period.
In the second period, the Pirates missed a giant opportunity to make it 2-0 and put a different
tone on the game as Mark Mancari intercepted a pass by Sens’ defenseman Mark Borowiecki at their blueline for a clean breakaway.
Mancari’s shot went wide and on the ensuing rush up the ice, the Sens capitalized as Smith slid the shot to Ryan Keller, who beat Leggio five-hole, tying the game at 1-1.
“I wanted to go up stairs,” said Mancari. “I fanned on it and it went only half-way. It’s one of those things that I didn’t get all that I wanted.”
Only 71 seconds later, Binghamton took their first lead of the night when former UNH star Bobby Butler ripped a one-timer from Corey Locke in the left circle while on the power play.
Butler extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with the goal.
With 2:46 left in the second period, the Pirates tied the game at 2-2 as Colin Stuart, streaking down the right side, released a low-slapper from the top of the right circle, surprising Lehner through a screen.
Lehner finished the night with 33 saves on 35 shots.
There weren’t a lot of penalties in the game as Binghamton scored the only power play goal, going 1-for-3, while the Pirates were 0-for-2.
When the Pirates drop the first game of a series they are 6-8 and are 4-5 when opening a series at home. The Pirates won’t have much time to let this loss linger as Game 2, which is now must win, is Thursday night back at the Civic Center before the series moves to Binghamton for three straight games, starting of Saturday with Game 3.
“Game 1 was really important and we didn’t like how we played that one,” said Dineen. “Their good players were good and can’t say the same thing.”
“We’re going to have to turn it right around. We won’t have much time to see what we can do better. We’re going to have to analyze our personnel and see who can give us more of a jump in the lineup. We’re going to have to have a big response tomorrow.”
“When you play back to back that’s the best thing possible,” said Mancari. “You go home. You learn from your mistakes and get right back at it tomorrow.”
NOTES: Marc-Andre Gragnani wasn’t assigned to the Portland Pirates on Wednesday and according to Dineen he will not be coming to Portland. No reason was given… The Portland Pirates, in conjunction with the Binghamton Senators and Time Warner Cable Sports, announced today that every game of the American Hockey League Atlantic Division Finals between the two teams will be televised live on Time Warner Cable Sports… The games will be available to Time Warner Cable’s digital customers on channel 1000. A digital box will be required to view them. Some of the games will also be simulcast on TWCTV (channel 9, 20 or 21) depending upon location… AHL President Dave Andrews was in attendance for Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals.