One day after allowing eight goals, the Pirates clamped down on defense to earn a 4-0 shutout victory over the St. John’s IceCaps before 6,287 at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The Pirates, who returned to .500 with a 2-2-1 record after taking three points in St. John’s, held a closed-door meeting prior to this morning’s practice skate to address several defensive deficiencies.
“From a defensive stand point, we weren’t happy with how things went last night,” said Pirates head coach Ray Edwards. “We didn’t adjust the system. It was more of a mindset, we held each other accountable to play a certain way and play the game the right way. We had a pow-wow this morning and we challenged them as a group and they answered it.”
One player in particular stepped up as goaltender Chad Johnson rebounded from a couple poor outings by making 27 saves for his first shutout of the season.
It was the first shutout by a Pirates’ goaltender since March 29, 2011 when David Leggio stopped all 28 shots he faced in a 3-0 win over the Providence Bruins at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“(Johnson) was very accountable to our group,” said Edwards. “Our guys felt like we needed to play better in front of him. He took a lot of the heat last night and the blame (for the loss). The guys respected the fact that he was accountable and they wanted to reward him today (with a win).”
The Pirates built a 2-0 lead after forty minutes of play on goals by Alexandre Bolduc and Brett Hextall.
Brendan Shinnimin would be whistled for holding midway into the first period that sent St. John’s to the first power play of the game, but it only last 10 seconds as Derek Meech was called for interference at 11:36.
Just 40 seconds later, Bolduc, who extended his point-scoring streak to four games (5g, 5a), scored his fourth of the season on a rush down the right side, beating IceCaps’ goalie Edward Pasquale on the shortside after he failed to freeze the puck on the initial save.
Brett Hextall made it 2-0 when he took a feed from Phil Lane, firing a laser under the crossbar 8:09 into the second period.
“It’s nice to see Hextall contributing,” said Edwards. “Lane made a nice a play to set up the goal. Credit has to go to our younger players. They are playing big minutes for us and contributing.”
Shots were even, 17-17, after two periods, but St. John’s countered in the third period to outshoot the Pirates, 10-2. Edwards was impressed by the young team’s composure.
“That’s the standard for the way we defend and the way we play the game,” he said. “It’s the mindset we have to have and the way envisioned things playing out. Our organization demands that we play that way. We have to bottle this effort and keep it going.”
St. John’s began the third period with a power play, but it was Pirates’ captain Alexandre Bolduc capitalizing on a turnover to spring free on a breakaway where he snapped a shot stickside of Pasquale only 24 seconds into the period to take a 3-0 lead.
At 7:45, Chris Conner added a power play goal for the Pirates with a shot from that right side, beating Pasquale through the legs.
The Pirates finished the game with a four-on-four, five-on-five, power play and shorthanded goals to earn their first road win of the season.
“The key for me was defending, which I thought was the best we’ve done all year and the best we done in the year-and-a-month that I’ve been (in Portland),” Edwards said.
NOTES: Rookie Jordan Martinook made his debut for the Pirates tonight after missing the first four games with a right leg injury… The Pirates have no easy way of getting back to Maine as they will fly from St. John’s tomorrow morning to Newark, New Jersey before riding a bus six hours back to Portland.