It was that two-minute span that got’em.
Namely, it was a 58-second span at the start of the second period that proved costly as the Connecticut Whale edged the Pirates, 5-4, in a shootout, Sunday afternoon, before 3,457 at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
The Pirates (29-28-3-4) earned a point, improving to 65 points on the season, but were left frustrated as Manchester and Worcester both earned regulation victories. The Pirates sit two points back of the Sharks for eighth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference with 12 games remaining on the season.
“To fight back as hard as we did to get that 4-3 lead, you’ve got to finish the game,” said Pirates coach Ray Edwards. “It’s just disappointing that we couldn’t finish when we desperately need the points. It leaves a pretty bad taste in your mouth.”
Portland jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the only goal of the first period as rookie Andy Miele recorded his 13th goal of the season at 5:40 of the period. It was Miele’s fourth consecutive game with a point as he has three goals and an assist during that span.
With both team’s skating four-on-four in the second period after Mathieu Brodeur and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault were whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of the first period, the Whale evened the game at 1-1 only 58 seconds in when Tommy Grant, who finished the game with two goals, two assists for four points, took a feed from Kelsey Tessier, who knocked David Rundblad off the puck, and snapped a quick shot by Pirates’ goalie Peter Mannino.
Just 58 seconds later Audy-Marchessault stepped out of the penalty box, picked up the puck from Grant and beat Mannino five-hole at the 1:56 mark of the second period to pull ahead by a goal, 2-1.
“For the first three minutes of the second period, we were brain dead,” said Edwards. “That’s where we’re at right now”
With 5:01 to play in the second period, Grant extended the Whale’s lead by two goals to 3-1, ripping a slap shot off the faceoff past Mannino.
The Pirates fought back in the third period, scoring three times to retake the lead, 4-3.
Ethan Werek got things started at the 5:13 mark.
Alexandre Bolduc pounced on a loose puck and slid it across to Werek for a shot into the open net, pulling the Pirates back to within a goal.
Ashton Rome tied the game, 3-3, with a power-play goal a little over two minutes later as he drilled a blast from the top of the left circle past Whale goalie Cam Talbot.
At 14:06, Werek put the Pirates back out front, 4-3, with his second goal of the game as his persistence paid off, getting to the rebound on the third or fourth whack, stuffing it by Talbot.
Werek has been on a roll lately with his second straight multi-point game. He has seven points (3g, 4a) in his last five games with the Pirates.
“He’s learned a lot about being an American Hockey League player,” said Edwards. He’s predicable now. He goes hard to the net, he works extremely hard around the net and a lot of his points come as a result of that effort.”
The Whale got the equalizer with 2:05 left in the game as Audy-Marchessault rang the puck off the post, sending the game to overtime.
“We had all the momentum in a 4-3 game and we couldn’t close it out,” Edwards. “This is one that will sting a little while.”
After a scoreless OT, in which the Pirates outshot the Whale, 6-1, the game would head to a shootout where Talbot stopped all four shooter for Portland. Brendan Bell and Casey Wellman scored for the Whale, giving them the extra point, pushing them further atop the Northeast Division standings.
NOTES: A scary incident took place late in the game as Pirates forward Ryan Duncan was cut in the face by a skate blade. The injury was severe enough that he was left behind in Hartford to be further treated by medical personnel. Edwards said Duncan’s status wouldn’t be known for a couple days… The Norfolk Admirals set an American League record with their 18th consecutive victory after a 5-0 defeat of the Charlotte Checkers… The Admirals are 24-5-0 in their 29 games dating back to Jan. 13.