The Portland Pirates overcame from being down 3-0 Saturday night to earn a 4-3 shootout victory against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in front of 5,487 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
For the Pirates, it certainly seemed that the ship was sinking when they found themselves down 2-0 to the Penguins before the game was even ten minutes old.
The Penguins came out aggressive and peppered Visentin early. Trevor Smith continued his reign of terror on the Pirates and opened the scoring for the Penguins when he got a stick on a shot fired in close by Wilkes-Barre center Philippe Dupuis, who swung around the Portland net and did a spin-o-rama on Visentin that seemed to surprise him.
It was Smith’s third goal against the Pirates in the season series.
Jayson Megna less than a minute later pounced on a rebound of a shot by Dupuis. The puck bounced off of Visentin’s pads, Megna settled it and slipped it past him.
Head Coach Ray Edwards had then seen enough, relieving Visentin just 6:10 into the first. The Portland netminder had been touched up for six goals the night before in Binghamton. Mike Lee, fresh off of a recall from ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators, came into the game for his first AHL start and settled the Pirates the rest of the period.
It would turn out to be the rest of the game as well.
In the second period, the pugilistic aspect of both teams showed up. Joel Rechlicz, who was a scratched in Binghamton during the melee that Pirates and Senators put on the night before, was itching to get things started in the fight department. He didn’t have to look far, finding heavyweight Steve MacIntyre. The fight, however, didn’t last very long. The two tangled and MacIntyre delivered a punch which leveled Rechlicz to ice.For it being a much anticipated fight for Penguins fans with Rechlicz skating for the Penguins rival Hershey last year, it wasn’t even the best fight of the period. Andy Miele and Wilkes-Barre pest Bobby Farnham tangled earlier in the period. Miele, of 16 PIMs coming into the game, held himself well against the Wilkes-Barre penalty leader Farnham.
In the goal scoring department for the teams, Riley Holzapfel picked off a Portland exit pass and caught Lee by surprise and blasted it past him for a 3-0 Penguin lead. After the Miele and Rechlicz fights for Portland, Chris Brown scored and got the Pirates on the board and ruined any shutout bid Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen envisioned.
“I think that the fighting gave us momentum and we kept fighting,” Edwards offered. “We weren’t trying to do anything crazy. We were fighting for our inches and our lives in the games at that point. We were trying to compete and battle and that was part of that.”
Jordan Martinook scored in the third period to bring the Pirates within on a goal that looked awfully similar to the goal Holzapfel scored for the Penguins the period prior. He picked off a clearing bid by the Penguins and rifled the shot past Thiessen in the slot.
Just under four minutes later, Oliver Ekman-Larsson tied the game on a NHL caliber wrist shot on the power play with Biddeford native Brian Dumoulin in the penalty box.
The teams traded power plays on the way out of the period. Wilkes-Barre had four minutes of power play time on an Andy Miele high stick call but, the Pirates were able to kill off all of the man disadvantage time and made it look easy in the process.
Overtime saw its fair share of penalties for both teams but solved nothing. Rob Klinkhammer and Chris Conner scored for the Pirates in the shootout and Mike Lee stopped all four Penguins players faced.
“We had to do something to get the train back on track. (Mike Lee) looked real, real calm in there…. really composed.” – Edwards had to say about his netminder.
“You just have to be ready and prepared mentally” Lee said postgame about his first AHL action. “I had a full week of practice to prepare for this.”
On if last night’s showing by Visentin had any bearing in his mind about getting the call if things went that way again tonight: “You really never know. It is usually a combination of things that gets a guy yanked in game. Your job is to be ready. Most importantly we were down three (goals), but fought all the way back.”
The Pirates return home to Maine to face off against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Tuesday, December 11.