It’s execution that’s been the issue as of late.
The Pirates found a way to put all the pieces together late in the game led by three special teams’ goals en route to a 6-3 victory over the Adirondack Phantoms before 2,849 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Pirates (34-21-3-2) snapped its three-game winless streak, to move within two points of the Atlantic Division leading Providence Bruins (35-19-0-5) and increase its cushion on fifth-place in the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs were to begin tomorrow, the Pirates would face the fourth-seeded Binghamton (36-18-1-5) in a best-of-five series.
“We’re just a little bit off on the shoulder – to use a roadway analogy – and we just have to turn the wheel a little to get back on the road, not jerk the steering wheel,” said Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards. “It’s a few things we need to get better at. We were getting away from our team game and taking unnecessary penalties, turning the puck over and getting away from our identity.”
“I thought we were ok for two periods, but we still turned some pucks over and didn’t compete as much as I would have liked, but the 13 minutes in the third period, if we can keep that going we’ll be fine.”
The Pirates led 3-1 after two periods of play and added to its lead with goals in the third period by team captain Alexandre Bolduc and Andy Miele.
Bolduc’s goal, his 22nd of the season, came roughly three minutes after he missed a penalty shot for being hauled down by Andreas Lilja. He made sure not to miss this time as he spilt the Phantoms’ defense, lifting the puck over goaltender Scott Munroe at the 7:20 mark.
At 8:19, Andy Miele shot from the left circle beat Munroe, extending the Pirates lead, 5-1.
“The best part of the game was the 13 minutes leading up to that penalty,” said Edwards. “It was the best hockey we’ve played in a while. We talked about it before the period about managing pucks, working and tracking and get back to our identity.”
Brendan Shinnimin was whistled for a five-minute major boarding penalty and given 10-minute misconduct, ending his night at the 12:11 mark. Boris Valabik also received a 10-minute misconduct and David Rundblad left the game, leaving Portland with four defensemen and 15 skaters for the remainder of the game.
Edwards indicated that Rundblad was listed day-to-day and his status for Saturday was unknown.
Adirondack would score twice on the major power-play only 58 seconds apart with goals from Mitch Wahl and Jason Akeson.
With 57 second left in the game, Brett Hextall added his seventh of the season, putting Portland out front, 6-3.
“Right now, two points is important for us right to sort of get us back on track,” said Edwards.
Portland opened the scoring seven minutes into the first period as Jordan Szwarz scored the team’s ninth shorthanded goal of the season.
Less than four minutes later, the Pirates special teams came through again when Chris Brown scored his 11th power-play goal of the of the season, poking Mathieu Brodeur’s rebound off the backboards past Munroe at the left post.
With 2:30 remaining the period, Adirondack pulled back to within a goal, 2-1, as former University of Maine forward Matt Mangene chipped a shot by Pirates’ goaltender Chad Johnson, capitalizing an odd-man rush.
Portland extended its lead, 3-1, with the only goal of the second period.
David Rundblad fired a slap shot from the right point, beating Munroe with 4:08 left in the period for the Pirates second power-play goal of the game.
Johnson finished with 26 saves, while Munroe stopped 26 of 32 shots in the loss.
NOTES: Defenseman Chris Summers was recalled from the Pirates on Tuesday by the Coyotes. Summers has 11 points (2g, 9a) in 47 games with Portland, while posting three assists in his five appearances with the Coyotes… Rookie Darian Dziurzynski was suspended by the AHL Tuesday for his actions following a game versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last Saturday. Dziurzynski was given a five minute major for fighting and a game misconduct for fighting after the game was concluded as tempers flared over at the conclusion of overtime. Former Pirates forward Rob Klinkhammer scored his second NHL goal in as many games since being recalled by the Coyotes last week… Forward Nick Johnson was placed on waivers by the Coyotes on Wednesday. He still status won’t known until it’s determined if he’s cleared waivers. Coyotes’ Asst. GM Brad Treliving, who has been in Portland for the last week, indicated that Johnson’s assignment to Portland is still undetermined… The Coyotes have signed 2012 first round selection Henrik Samuelsson to a three-year entry-level contract. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound forward has 32 goals, 47 assists for 79 points in 67 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League this season, which currently ranks third on the team in goals and points.