Maine Hockey Journal

McKenna steps up as Pirates take series lead

Portland, ME – Mike McKenna made 27 saves in a surprising starting as the Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final with a 5-2 win in front of 3,746 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday afternoon.

McKenna earned the nod after J.S. Aubin went down with what appears to be a lower body injury. The first hint was when he was out on the ice with Pirates’ trainer Rick Burrill work on some lower body issues.

“He’s an important piece of the puzzle,” said Pirates’ coach Kevin Dineen. “He’s hurting a little bit, like a lot of guys are now when you go through that physical of a series (Providence). He’s in the neverland of death quotes — day-to-day — so we’re just to evaluate him and see where he is tomorrow.”

After a tough first period for the Pirates in which the Penguins carried the majority of the play, McKenna kept the Pirates close until they found their legs midway into the second period.

“It’s was a feeling out process for them because they were on top of us hammering us,” said Dineen. “It was good that Mike (McKenna) came in and was as good as he was because we withstood that attack and played fairly solid from there.”

With the Pirates down 2-1 on goals from Mark Ardelan and Tim Brent (coincidently both former Pirates), the Pirates responded with the tying goal less than two minutes later from Geoff Platt as the Pirates were on an extended five-on-three.

Platt took the feed from Andrew Ebbett in the high slot, letting a laser go that beat Penguins’ goalie John Curry under the crossbar at 12:15 of the second period.

At 14:57, the Pirates grabbed the lead for the first time in the game as Jason King scored his sixth of the playoff on a weird play that had to be a momentum killer for the Penguins.

King, at the left face off circle, fired what appeared to be a harmless shot on goal, but it hit Curry’s stick and bounced over his head into the net. From that moment on the Pirates had renewed life, as the Penguins could never recover.

In the third period, Stephen Dixon put the game out of reach for his former team when he notched his third of the playoffs midway into the period.

Normally, it’s at that point the Pirates try to sit back on the lead, but they continued to press, something the Penguins weren’t expecting.

“Too many times this year we’ve been up by a goal and sat back and (the opposition) has been able to take advantage of it,” said Pirates’ forward Bobby Ryan. “We saw when we force the “D” they turned the puck over and it gave us a lot of good opportunities.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply