Maine Hockey Journal

Penguins seize momentum as Pirates falter

Wilkes-Barre, PA – The Portland Pirates missed an opportunity and it may have cost them a chance at the Calder Cup Finals. With a 3-1 lead going into the third period, the Wilkes-Barre Penguins put forth a resilient effort to take a 4-3 win in game six of Eastern Conference Finals.

The Penguins tied the series at 3-3 and now it’s now a must win game for both teams on Saturday at the Wachovia Arena.

For the first five games, Penguins’ forward Chris Minard was all but invisible, but he came through when it mattered most, notching two goals including the game-tying goal with 5:43 left in the third period.

After a scoreless first period, the Pirates put Wilkes-Barre in what seemed to be an insurmountable deficit, building a 3-0 lead, but shortly after Andrew Ebbett scored his second goal of the night with less than a minute to play in the second period, the Penguins struck back to pull within two.

Conner James, in the slot, spotted the rebound, sending it past Mike McKenna (22 saves) to get the Penguins on the board.

Portland opened the scoring at 13:54 of the second period when Andrew Ebbett found the rebound from the high slot and beat Penguins goaltender John Curry (23 saves) with a backhander.

Less than two minutes later, Geoff Platt scored his seventh of the playoffs as the Pirates looked to be on cruise control, outshooting the Penguins three-to-one during the second period.

In the third period, the Pirates – as they’ve done more than once all year – sat back on their lead as the Penguins stormed the net and Mike McKenna (22 saves). Minard scored his first of the series, sending a blazing one-timer from the high slot by McKenna just 2:55 into the period.

The Penguins smelling blood never let up, getting numerous scoring chances on the Pirates and it paid off with Minard’s second goal of the night at 14:17 of the third period, sending the game to overtime.

It didn’t take long for the Penguins to send a statement to the Pirates that they weren’t done playing hockey just yet. Only 20 seconds into the extra session, Connor James scored what might the biggest goal of his career – his second of the night – when he beat Andy Schneider, snapping a shot over the right shoulder of McKenna.

The Pirates for the first time during the playoffs find themselves on the brink of elimination and it couldn’t be the worse possible situation. After having such a lead and allowing Wilkes-Barre to get back into the game, they’ve allowed them to get back into the series and it might have cost the Pirates a chance at the Calder Cup Finals.

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The Pirates were 9-1 when they had to play a game six, however, they haven’t been has fortunate in game seven. Four times the Pirates have played a game seven and they are 1-3 in those contest. The last time the Pirates played a game seven was the 2005-06 Eastern Conference Finals when the Pirates forced a game seven against the Hershey Bears. They would fall 4-3 after Eric Fehr’s goal beat Jani Hurme in overtime.

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Here’s a little food for thought. Wednesday night’s game at the Cumberland County Civic Center might have been the last time we see the Portland Pirates on the ice with the Anaheim Ducks affiliation as it’s expected they will leave for greener grass in the west.

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