Portland, ME – The Portland Pirates find themselves in a very tough situation as the AHL Atlantic Division Finals move to Binghamton after giving up a golden opportunity to tie the best-of-seven series.
Of course, the game wasn’t without its controversy.
Kaspars Daugavins scored two goals as the Binghamton Senators swept the first two games of the best-of-seven series with a 5-3 victory in Game 2 over the Pirates before 1,831 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
With four minutes left remaining in the game, a failed clear-out attempt by the Pirates out of their own defensive zone allowed the Senators to keep the play alive where Erik Condra fed Bob Raymond with a drop pass, who fired it past Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth with 3:51 to go to give the Senators the 4-3 lead.
The Pirates felt the play should have been whistled dead because it was offsides.
“I didn't need to look at it,” said Pirates forward Mark Mancari. “You saw it. It was clear (it was offsides) and referees can't make bad calls like that in the playoffs. I am not going to go out there and tear apart the referees, but I thought that was not the right call. We have every right to be mad and have every right to say something. If they can sit there and say it wasn't offsides. It's not enough. Our jobs are on the line here. These guys can go ref another series after this one. I think it was a horrible call.”
At the other end, Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst thought other ways.
“It wasn't offsides,” Kleinendorst said. “I looked, looked, and looked from what I saw. “Kevin (Dineen) can give you his opinion on what he sees, but we played it over and I didn't have to play it a second time, but I did. There’s no way (we’re offside).”
Daugavins would add the empty netter to make it 5-3 to take a 2-0 advantage in this best-of-seven series that now moves to Binghamton for Game 3 on Saturday followed by Game 4 (Monday) and potentially a Game 5 on Tuesday.
“It's a disadvantage going out there (to Binghamton),” said Portland Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “They are able to go back and play their game at home. We are going to have (to play) pretty good hockey on our part. There are no stealing games. We are going to have to earn it.”
The Pirates got on the board first when Mark Voakes fed Derek Whitmore in front of the net and Whitmore lifted the puck past Binghamton Senators goalie Robin Lehner with 6:52 remaining in the period.
It was Whitmore's third goal of the playoffs.
Portland made it 2-0 when Matt Ellis and Luke Adam did some one touch passing to find Mark Mancari in the slot, who ripped it past Lehner just 1:27 into the second period.
“We just have that chemistry,” Mancari said of his linemates of
Ellis and Adam. “Some lines take a little longer to get to know the players, but I've known Matty Ellis for a very longtime. I've played with him and against him. Matt is probably the hardest working player I've played with on my line. He makes my job a lot easier and I hope I make his easier.”
With the Pirates on the man advantage, a costly turnover led to the Senators getting on the board. Kaspars Daugavins broke in all alone on Pirates goalie Jhonas Enroth and slipped it through the five-hole at the 8:28 mark.
“You can't have certain breakdowns and one was clearly my fault on the power play,” said Mancari. “I let the guy walk around and you can't give him second opportunities.”
Nearly three minutes later, Binghamton tied the game at 2-2 as Zack Smith ripped a shot past Enroth. The lone assist on the goal went to Corey Locke.
“The second goal was all my fault,” said Dimmen. “I was late on the change. If I am early on that call my center man is out and in position and they don't get that shot.”
Binghamton grabbed the lead with a power play goal as there was a scrum in front of Enroth and Bobby Butler would get credit with the tally as the puck rolled in with 3:38 remaining in the second stanza. Assists went to Ryan Keller and Corey Locke.
“We were able to come in and talk about a few things,” said Kleinendorst on the turnaround from the first and second period. “We knew we had to step it up. For us it was a matter of winning a period and set us up to win a game in the third.”
Portland once again was 0-for-2 on the power play as special teams proved to have impact in the outcome.
“The difference was special teams,” said Dineen. “We get one scored against us and they score one. That’s the difference in the hockey game.”
Just past the midway point through the third period, Mark Mancari notched his second goal of the game with a quick wrister from the slot at the 10:40 mark to tie the game at 3-3. Matt Ellis picked up his second assist of the contest.
Jhonas Enroth made 21 saves in the loss while his fellow countryman Robin Lehner stopped 43 shots for the Senators in the win.
NOTES: Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani won't be joining the Portland Pirates for the rest of the Calder Cup playoffs because he would be required to clear waivers. He will instead represent Canada at the upcoming World Championships in Slovakia.
“He's caught in a waivers situation where he's not going to be able to help us,” said Dineen. “There are a certain number of games where he would have to pass through waivers to come down and obviously with his play in Buffalo that didn’t happen. It’s certainly a well-deserved honor to represent his country at the World Championships.”