Down by three goals at one point in the second period, the Pirates stormed back on the stick of Nathan Oystrick as he tied the game and scored the game-winner in overtime for a 5-4 victory over the Connecticut Whale before an announced crowd of 3,524 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Pirates (16-12-2-3) are finishing a stretch of five games-in-eight days and have earned a possible eight of 10 points during that span to move into eighth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
“Obviously, the first two periods we weren’t very good,” Pirates coach Ray Edwards. “It’s looked like a Sunday three-in-three game where neither team really wanted it. They got the lead, but I felt like if we could have a good third period we’d have a chance (to score).”
“(The players) know we didn’t play as well as we needed too, but it was a heck of a week for us.”
With the Whale up 4-3, Jordan Owens was whistled for a delay of game after sending the puck over the glass with three minutes left in the game, followed by Sean Avery heading to the box for a high-sticking penalty a minute later to give the Pirates an extended five-on-three for just over a minute.
Shortly after Owens’ penalty expired, the Pirates, skating 6-on-4 with goalie Marc Cheverie pulled for an extra attacker, Oystrick tied the game at 4-4 with only 29.2 seconds left on the clock, blasting a one-timer past Whale goalie Cameron Talbot from the inside of the right circle.
Less than three minutes into the overtime, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault took a tripping penalty and Oystrick struck again, firing a laser from nearly an identical spot as his previous goal for his second of the night, his eighth of the season, with only 33 seconds left in the game.Six weeks ago, this might have been a game the Pirates couldn’t have recovered from after being outplayed and outhustled through the first 10 minutes of action.
“The first part of the year, maybe we win,” said Edwards. “We’re new and we still didn’t know everybody, but then there was about a six week period where I would say no. We would have collapsed and faltered and our attitude would have been poor.”
“This is something that I like about the group right now. We are continuing to fight and continue to get better. Yeah, we weren’t great, but we found a way to win. That’s an important trait.”
Only 25 seconds into the game, the Whale got on the board when Kyle Newbury, named earlier in the day as the AHL Player of Week, found the bouncing puck in the slot and snapped a shot by starting netminder Justin Pogge.
Kelsey Tessier scored the next two goals for Whale, starting with a shot from the bottom of the right circle at 4:53 of the first period.
Tessier tipped defenseman Pavel Valentenko’s shot from the right point at 9:21of the second period, ending the night for Pogge with 16 saves.
Edwards didn’t regret decision of starting Pogge over Cheverie, who finished with 20 saves on 21 shots to improve to 2-0-0 on season. Both wins for Cheverie have come in relief duty with his only other game back on Nov. 15, replacing Curtis McElhinney as the Pirates overcame a 2-0 deficit to earn a 4-2 win against Adirondack.
“I thought we were flat,” said Edwards. “It was no different than the last time with (McElhinney). We were just trying to send a message to the group to wake up.”
“Pogge has been really good. This is Pogge’s change to play a lot. (Cheverie) was playing a ton of games (in Gwinnett). I don’t think I would have changed that because (Pogge) been pretty good, but now that happen I was glad that Cheverie was able to get in there and hang on for us.”
The Pirates broke through with 3:48 left in the second period when Brett MacLean connected on a pass from rookie Andy Miele, beating Talbot on the left post, and cutting into the Whale’s lead, 3-1.
Matt Watkins made it a one-goal game only 59 seconds into the third period after Brett Hextall made a strong play to keep the puck into the zone, finding Watkins down low, alone in the slot as he ripped a backhander past Talbot on the right side.
Less than four minutes later, the Pirates completed the comeback to even the game at 3-3 with the first of three power-play goals as they finished 3-for-8 on the night with the man advantage as Brock Trotter got a bit of a lucky break off the face-off.
Miele won the face-off back to Trotter, who snapped a shot, deflecting off Talbot’s glove as he tried to catch the puck, sending it into the net at the 4:47 mark of the third period.
Since his return 13 games ago from a hand injury, Trotter has recorded a point in 11 games, posting six goals, 11 assists for 17 points.
At 9:20, the Whale regained the lead, 4-3, when rookie Audy-Marchessault banged home a goal with a shot from the bottom of the right circle.
It’s a goal that Edwards didn’t like, but he liked the response of the team afterward especially with the penalties in the game.
“It was poor defensive zone coverage,” he said. “After that goal, we were swimming a little bit, but they gave us life with those penalties and we’ve got some guys that can score. We took advantage of it. Put the points in the bank and learn from the mistakes.”
************************The Connecticut Whale’s Sean Avery was a non-factor for nearly 58 minutes before taking a high-sticking penalty that led to the power play and game-tying goal with 29 seconds left in the game.
Edwards said his approach to the game didn’t change as a result of Avery, who cleared waivers and assigned to Connecticut last week by their NHL parent club, New York Rangers.
“I thought he was a non-factor until the end when (Avery) took the penalty,” he said. “That’s hurts them. He didn’t have too much of an impact in the game until the end. We just tried to play our game.”
Avery played two games with the Whale previously this season, scoring a goal before rejoining the Rangers.
NOTES: Hall of Famer Ray Bourque was in attendance to watch his youngest son Ryan play for the Connecticut Whale, who was drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round (80th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Bourque played 22 years in the NHL with Boston and Colorado, eventually winning the Stanely Cup in 2001 with the Avalanche. Bourque has another son, Chris, that plays for the Hershey Bears. Chris played six games with the Pirates in 2005 under the Washington Capitals affiliation.