Special to Maine Hockey Journal
by Tom Robinson
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – The Portland Pirates avoided slipping to the brink of elimination on Saturday night by stealing from the Binghamton Senators’ formula for postseason success.
Trailing in both games and goals, the Pirates pulled out a dramatic Game Three victory, winning, 3-2, on a rare Tim Conboy goal with 12.5 seconds left.
The victory cut the Binghamton series lead to 2-1 and ended a five-game Calder Cup playoff winning streak in which the Senators had won four times on the road, pulled out three overtime victories and rallied from behind in the last five minutes of regulation twice.
Three of those Binghamton wins avoided elimination. The Pirates were not done for the season if they lost Saturday, but they were facing the closest thing, a 3-0 deficit with two more games on enemy ice before a chance to return home.
Instead, Derek Whitmore tied the game with 5:09 left and Conboy won it with his first goal in more than two years.
“He has had a pretty big zero by his name all season,” Pirates coach Kevin Dineen said. “If there’s such a thing as timeliness, that’s it.”
Conboy ended a streak of 171 straight scoreless games between the National Hockey League and American Hockey League regular seasons and postseasons with his first goal since Jan. 17, 2009 in Wilkes-Barre.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Conboy said. “You wonder when it’s going to happen again.”For obvious reason, Conboy was not necessarily thinking goal as he trailed the play. Travis Turnbull carried deep up the left side, then circled back along the wall, maintaining possession.
“I just sprinted up to make sure I could keep a loose puck in,” Conboy said.
When he did, he arrived at the right point in perfect position for Turnbull’s diagonal pass. Conboy ripped a slap shot low and inside the left post for the winner.
“It was a nice play by Turnbull to find me with some
time to get a good shot on net,” Conboy said. “It’s the biggest goal of my career right now.”
“You can’t ask for more than that.”
Conboy and Turnbull were in position to win the game because of a play made by the combination of Luke Adam and Mark Mancari at the end of their shift and Whitmore at the start of his.
Mancari and Adam stayed on the ice to keep the puck in the Binghamton zone. Their work along the boards near the left point drew three Senators, leaving Whitmore open high in the slot when Adam was able to poke the puck in his direction.
“I heard him coming the whole way and just tried to get the puck toward the center of the ice,” Adam said.
Whitmore’s quick shot got past Senators goalie Robin Lehner.
The Pirates moved in front 5:29 into the game, then did not give up a shot for more than seven minutes after taking the 1-0 lead.
After players from both teams were not able to control a rebound in a crowd just outside the crease, Pirates defenseman Brian O’Hanley came up to wrist a shot through the crowd and past Lehner.
Portland led, 13-8, in shots in the first period, but struggled from the start of the second period through the early part of the third.
Binghamton took advantage to force a tie at 5:16 of the second.
Ryan Potulny sent Ryan Keller ahead on a 2-on-1 break with Zack Smith on his left. With two Pirates racing to try to get back in the play, Potulny kept the puck the whole way. As he moved past Dennis Persson and cut toward the middle, Potulny got off a wrist shot that beat David Leggio to the short side.
The Pirates made it through a 5-on-3 Senators advantage with the help of some tireless work from Mancari before giving up a goal on Binghamton’s fifth of six power-play chances.
Erik Condra walked out of the corner and got off two shots from near the left post before Kaspars Daugavins knocked in the rebound at 14:56 of the second for a 2-1 lead.
The Senators almost had another goal during their 15-shot, second-period effort. Just after the 5-on-3 ended, AHL scoring champion Corey Locke hit the post from the slot and watched the puck bounce through the crease.
Zack Kassian made his debut for the Pirates in the game. The first-round draft pick of the parent Buffalo Sabres in the 2009 NHL Draft recently completed his Canadian Juniors season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.
The series continues with Games Four and Five Monday and Tuesday night.