Special to Maine Hockey Journal by Tom Robinson
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Dominance on the special teams was one of the biggest reasons the Binghamton Senators went into Tuesday night with a chance to become the first team to land a spot in the Calder Cup conference finals.
Success on the special teams instead allowed the Portland Pirates to escape from New York State and return the second-round series back to Maine.
Mark Mancari had a hand in three special teams goals in the first 12 minutes to spark the fast start that allowed the Pirates to fight off elimination with a 6-2 victory in Game Five at the Broome County Arena.
“We were fortunate to get the first three power plays and we had good execution on the power play,” Pirates coach Kevin Dineen said.
The Senators still have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which switches to the Cumberland County Civic Center for Game Six Friday night. Games Seven, if necessary, will also be at the Civic Center Saturday night.
Portland scored on its first two power plays – and on Binghamton’s second.
Mancari, who finished with two goals and two assists, circled around the net and set up Colin Stuart’s goal 4:59 into the game.
The next two goals came when Pirates knocked in their own rebounds.
Luke Adam was at the right post to jam his second chance past Robin Lehner at 6:09, just 12 seconds into the second straight Binghamton penalty for delay of game when sending pucks over the glass while in their defensive zone.
“We earned our time on the power play through our hard work and the trouble they had containing us,” Dineen said.
The Pirates were just getting the first player back from a 5-on-3 when Mancari carried the puck in, had one shot stopped, then managed to pull the rebound from Lehner’s reach before taking the off-balance shot for the goal and a 3-0 lead.
“They came out hard,” Binghamton defenseman Andre Benoit said.
And, they did not stop.
Mark Parrish scored on a rebound of an Alex Biega point shot at 14:29 to complete the four-goal fir
Mark Voakes, who sat out the previous two games, backhanded in a rebound after a Derek Whitmore steal deep in the Binghamton zone for a 5-0 lead 2:37 into the second period.
“We wanted a level of composure and stability throughout the game,” Dineen said.
The Pirates had a vastly different look than in a 6-1 loss just 24 hours earlier.
“(Monday) we got outplayed in a number of areas,” Dineen said. “Tonight, we cleaned up a lot of little things and it made a difference.”
Mancari, improved overall effort on faceoffs and the special teams produced.
The Pirates entered the game last among the 16 Calder Cup teams in penalty killing and just 14th on the power play. Not only was Portland 0-for-9 against Binghamton on the power play during the series, but the Senators also had a short-handed goal.
Combined with a 6-for-18 effort by a Binghamton power play that had scored in every game, the Senators were outscoring the Pirates, 7-0, on the special teams while the teams were equal, 9-9, at even strength.
The Pirates finished 2-for-6 Tuesday and added the short-handed goal while keeping the Senators power play scoreless (0-for-5) for the first time in the series.
Binghamton led the American Hockey League on the power play in the regular season and was tied for third in the playoffs entering the game.
“We know they have a very good power play,” said Jhonas Enroth, who took over in goal and got his first win in his second start of the playoffs. “We played very well. Our defense all-around had a good game.”
Enroth did his part. He stopped the first 14 shots he faced while the Pirates opened a 5-0 lead, then stopped 17 more while they held on to the 6-2 advantage over the final 24:30.
“Jhonas is a goalie who, in my opinion, is going to have a very long NHL career,” Dineen said.
Enroth finished with 35 saves.
Matt Ellis had two assists, Stuart finished with a goal and an assist and a total of 11 Pirates had points.
The Pirates led, 20-12, in shots in the first period and finished with a 41-37 advantage.