Portland, ME – Michael Leighton stole the show.
The Adirondack Phantoms’ goaltender made 35 saves to earn his first shutout of the season, beating the Portland Pirates by a 3-0 score before 4,155 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Friday night.Leighton, who was one win away from the winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Phantoms’ NHL parent club, the Philadelphia Flyers, was the difference in the game as he made several point blank saves.
“He’s played very well for us,” said Phantoms coach Joe Patterson. “He was very composed and strong for us tonight.”
Portland’s offense took a hit earlier in the day after rookie forward Andy Miele was recalled by the Phoenix Coyotes. Still, the Pirates found a way to get chances on net.
The goal entering the night was to have a better first period. They felt they accomplished that as Portland outshot Adirondack 13-7 in the period, and despite not getting their first shot until nearly seven minutes into the game, they controlled the first 20 minutes in scoring chances, 11-3.
“We didn’t take any penalties,” said Pirates head coach Ray Edwards. “We pretty much had the momentum the entire (first) period. We like the way we worked. (Adirondack) played a smart simple road game and weren’t able to find an answer for Leighton and they come out with the two points.”
Leighton, who played 16 games for the Pirates under the Anaheim Ducks affiliation during the 2006 season before being claimed on re-entry waivers by the Nashville Predators, prevented the Pirates from getting an early lead within a two-minute span by stopping Ethan Werek on an end-to-end rush, followed by Ashton Rome’s partial breakaway from the penalty box at the 10 minute mark of the first period.
Rome had another opportunity that forced Leighton to make a clutch save and Matt Watkins rang a shot off the post with 7:20 left in the period.
“(Portland) plays very hard,” said Patterson. “We watched them on video and they come very hard on the forecheck and they play hard. We watched the game against Bridgeport so we know they are a hard forechecking team and a hard working team. I think had to give everything we had to beat them.”
After a scoreless first period, the Phantoms opened the scoring just 2:44 into the second period to take a 1-0 lead as Garrett Roe took a shot off the outside of the net and sent a wraparound pass to rookie Tyler Brown for the one-timer past Pirates’ goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who made 20 saves on the night.
It was Brown’s first professional goal.Roe would get his second point of the game with a power play goal at 8:36 of the third period, seconds after Portland killed off an extended 5-on-3, as his shot hit the shin pad of Pirates’ captain Dean Arsene, deflecting into the net.
That killed any momentum the Pirates had from killing the two-man advantage.
“I can’t fault the effort,” said Edwards. “The effort was there. The guys worked hard, but there wasn’t enough. In games like that you need to find a little more.”
With 55 seconds left in the game, the Phantoms scored their second power play goal of the night when Harry Zolnierczyk, who was sent down on Flyers early this week – a day after scoring his first NHL goal, beating McElhinney with a shot from slot.
The Pirates finished the game, going 0-for-3 on the power play. The Phantoms went 2-for-5 with the man advantage.
NOTES: With less than a minute to play after the Phantoms made it 3-0, a pair of fights broke out involving Ryan Hollweg and Igor Gongalsky. Edwards said because neither was assessed an instigator he doesn’t expect a suspension… Mathieu Brodeur played his game of the season after being a healthy scratch… Colin Long missed the game after coming down with an illness.