Sunday afternoon they got it.
In a game the Pirates admittedly didn’t play well in, giving up 49 shots, goaltender Peter Mannino made 45 saves in his first start since being acquired on loan, including 19 saves in the second period as they edged the Providence Bruins, 5-4, in a must-win game before 5,127 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Pirates (28-27-3-3) entered the game 13th in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, but after the victory, combined with losses by Manchester, Albany, Worcester and a shootout loss by Springfield, have moved up to 11th place, tied with Springfield with 62 points on the season, two points back of Albany for eighth place.
Only five points separate 7th to 14th place in the standings with less than five weeks remaining in the regular season.
“This was a big win for us because it put us within a game of a finding a way to get into the playoffs,” said Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards. “We have 15 games left in the season, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a lot of games if you can get hot and go on a run.”
“Every game is huge and every point is huge,” said Pirates’ forward Ashton Rome, who recorded the game-winner. “We’re close. The last several games we’ve worked very hard. They didn’t go our way, but we’re right there and anything can happen. We just need to get the points when we can get them.”
Mannino, who was acquired on loan from the St. John’s IceCaps along with Kenndal McArdle for Brock Trotter, got the start over Justin Pogge, who has struggle over the last two months of the season and has been yanked from the net four times in his last 13 starts.
“I thought we got outplayed pretty badly, but we had a goaltender tonight that won a game for us,” said Edwards. “I felt like the games on Friday and Saturday we played really well and weren’t able to get the result and I felt like tonight we didn’t play nearly as well and we got the two points.”“(Providence) won a lot of battles, but Mannino was there to bail us out.”
“He made the saves he needed to make,” said Rome. “When you see a goalie make a huge save like that; everyone gets excited and it fires you up.”
Edwards all but assured that Mannino gets the start on Friday in Springfield.
“We ride him Friday night, absolutely,” said Edwards. “I’d get shot if I didn’t play him Friday night.”
The Pirates scored the first goal of the game on a delayed call eight minutes into the first period to take a 1-0 lead.
Pirates’ rookie Andy Miele scored his 11th of the season, redirecting Brett Sterling’s cross-crease pass past Bruins’ goalie Michael Hutchinson. It was only Miele’s third goal in his last 30 games. Sterling has three points (2g, 1a) in four games with the Pirates since being acquired on loan from Peoria for Patrick O’Sullivan.
Penalties hampered the Pirates the entire game as they gave the Bruins seven power plays, including two extended 5-on-3 opportunities.
The Bruins capitalized on their first power play as former Pirate’ Trent Whitfield found the back of the net with a shot from the right circle at 9:32, and were right back on the power play as Brett Hextall was whistled for slashing.
Pirates took the lead shortly after killing off the penalty as Jordan Szwarz snapped a shot from the slot at the 11:48 mark of the period.
With 2:57 left in the period, Ryan Duncan extended the Pirates lead to 3-1 with a power-play goal.Providence scored their second power-play goal of the game early in the third period, twenty seconds after Evan Bloodoff was called for interference as Carter Camper tipped a cross-ice pass from Kyle McKinnon.
Less than two minutes, the Bruins tied the game, 3-3, after Craig Cunningham’s finished off an odd man rush with a lazy slapper by Mannino.
Bloodoff made up for an earlier call by scoring the go-ahead a short time later at 6:28 of the second period. It’s the third straight game Bloodoff has a scored a goal, and his fourth point in his last six starts.
Ashton Rome, who missed two games as a healthy scratch, added his third point in three games, putting the Pirates up by two goals again, drilling a shot by Hutchinson with 4:38 to play in the game.
“I’ve had spurts here and there, but it feels pretty good to get this monkey off my back,” said Rome.
Colby Cohen got a last minute goal to pull the Bruins back within one, 5-4.
NOTES: Brett MacLean was a healthy scratch for the Pirates… Nathan Oystrick is out day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Michael Stone, who is currently on recall with the Phoenix Coyotes, scored his first NHL goal Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.