Goalie Mike Lee got his first action between the pipes for the Pirates since being recalled from the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL. He last appeared in goal for Portland on December 8, and got the win against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
If anyone was worried about what Lee could do between the pipes, he certainly calmed them as he was solid throughout the game and helped the Pirates go 6-for-6 on the penalty kill.
“He came off the bench in Wilkes-Barre a while back and ended up playing really well and winning in a shootout,” said Portland coach Ray Edwards of Lee. “We felt like this situation was a great opportunity for him to step up, so we gave him an opportunity to start and he didn’t let us down.”
A big focus for the team was getting back to basics. They wanted to focus on playing their roles and doing all of the little things well that have given them success this season.
“I saw the game last night and it wasn’t good. I didn’t see the two before that, but apparently they were the same,” said Lee. “We wanted to get back to playing our game before the break and we did that.”
The Pirates came out flying and scored two goals in the first 1:53 of the game. The first goal came off the stick of defenseman Chris Summers on a counter attack by the Pirates when the Monarchs left the puck behind just inside the Pirates zone only 27 seconds after the puck had dropped.
Darian Dziurynski didn’t give up on multiple rebound chances at the top of the Monarchs crease and finally snuck one past goalie Martin Jones for the 2-0 lead.
The Monarchs scored their only goal at 19:58 as Tyler Toffoli flew down the left wing and roofed the puck stick side on Mike Lee. It was the eighth goal scored by Toffoli against the Pirates this season.
The Pirates added its third goal of the night at 14:26 of the second. Chris Conner was credited with a power-play goal when he scored during a 4-on-3 man advantage just as the penalty was expiring. Rob Klinkhammer picked up an assist on the play, which was the 250th point of his AHL career.
With the win over the Monarchs, the Pirates put a couple more points between them and their divisional foe in the standings, improving to 25-16-1-1 to remain atop the Atlantic Division standings in the AHL. They also get to head out on the All-Star break on a positive note and can build some good vibrations before the next game.
“You get four days off and you want to feel good. We certainly have a lot of work to do when we get back, but really this is when the season starts,” said Edwards. “We’ve got 33 games left and now it’s going to be a fight for the playoffs. We’ve got 33 games to try and jockey for position and now is when the work really starts.”