The Pirates gave up four unanswered goals in the third period to the Springfield Falcons en-route to a 5-1 loss before 3,697 at the MassMutual Center on Friday night.
Two of the four goals came while the Pirates, who will finish the regular season against Springfield, 2-6-0, were on the power play.
The Pirates, tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals allowed, have given up twelve on the season, nine of them against the Falcons. It’s the third time this season the Pirates have allowed two or more goals while shorthanded to the Falcons.
“We’ve got to protect the puck better,” said Edwards. “We gave the puck away too much. Both goals were turnovers and odd man rushes. That’s not acceptable.”
With the game tied, the go-ahead goal came with the Pirates on the power play 2:25 into the third period when Falcons’ forward Adam Mair intercepted a loose puck for a breakaway in the other direction, snapping a shot under the crossbar to put Springfield up 2-1.
Less than two minutes later, the Falcons extended their lead by two goals, 3-1, when Dalton Prout’s shot beat Pirates’ goalie Peter Mannino through a screen.
“(Springfield) came out hard in the first period,” said Edwards. “We got standing around a little bit, but Peter (Mannino) was there and kept us in the game. We weren’t playing great, but it was a 1-1 game and we were battling, but in the third period we just self-destructed.”
Tomas Kubalik was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct at 7:46 and just 33 seconds later Matt Calvert finished off a two-on-one rush for the Falcons’ second shorthanded goal of the game.
“We were just soft to the puck and they chipped it past our defense for a two-on-one,” said Edwards. “We’ve got to be harder on the puck. It’s unacceptable. We’ve got the power play and we need to be harder on the play than that.”
Kubalik added a power play goal with 1:37 left in the game, giving the Falcons a commanding 5-1 lead.
The Pirates (28-28-3-3) were in a good spot to make up ground, or in a worst case scenario, stay even with the pack for the last playoff spot, but the loss put them further behind the eight ball in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, dropping them to 13th place with 62 points, three points behind the Manchester, who was idle, for the last playoff spot.
While the Pirates lost ground in the race, only four points separate seventh through 14th in the standings.
After a scoreless first period, in which the Pirates were outshot 14-4, they opened the scoring at 4:36 into the second, taking a 1-0 lead.
Falcons’ goalie Mike Clemente, who recently finished his career at Brown University and was making his first start with Springfield since signing an amateur tryout, was handcuffed on the initial shot by Pirates’ rookie Andy Miele, leaving a rebound for Brett Sterling, who shoveled the puck into the net for his 25th goal of the season, his third goal with the Pirates since being acquired on loan from the Peoria Rivermen.
The lead only lasted for 74 seconds as Nick Drazenovic tied the game at one goal apiece.
Former Pirate Greg Amadio fired a shot on Mannino, who kicked the rebound to the stick of Drazenovic, and was able to recover in time for a one-timer to the shortside at 5:50 of the second period.
Mannino, who finished with 33 shots, saved the Pirates from potentially giving up a third shorthanded goal in the game with 18.7 seconds left in the second period, stopping the Falcons on a two-on-one shorthanded rush as he flashed the glove on a shot by Drazenovic.
“He made a handful of big saves in the first two periods,” said Edwards. “It’s was 1-1 going into the third period and we felt like we had a better game to play. We were just soft all night.”
“We’ve been inconsistent all season. That’s why we’re .500 because some nights we’re good and other nights we’re awful.”
NOTES: Brett MacLean drew his way back into the lineup after sitting last Sunday as a healthy scratch… To make room Edwards sat Evan Bloodoff, who was on a three-game point streak, scoring three goals and one assist during that span. Edwards indicated that he was unhappy with the play of several players and lineup changes might be in order for Saturday’s game at the Civic Center against Bridgeport.
“We felt like we need to get (MacLean) going,” said Edwards. “Unfortunately a young player has to take a seat, it’s hard for a young player, but sometimes that happens. We’ll take look at it tomorrow.”
“I can say this; there is more than one guy that deserves to sit with the effort they put in tonight. I’m going to look at it tonight and we’ll have a lineup for (Saturday).”
Nathan Oystrick was a late scratch after he was cleared to return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. Nick Ross took Oystrick’s spot in the lineup.