Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates find a spark to move back into third place

Manchester, NH – Portland Pirates’ forward Derek Whitmore indicated this morning, after the morning skate, that tonight’s game against the Manchester Monarchs was a big game toward deciding their future in making the playoffs.

After going down 1-0, the Pirates scored three unanswered goals in the second period as they went onto win, 5-2, over the Monarchs before 5,903 at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Wednesday night.

The Pirates now move back into sole possession of third-place in the Atlantic Division as Manchester falls back to fourth-place, one point behind. The Worcester Sharks, who were idle, sit in fifth place with 71 points and the Devils, who lost to Hartford tonight, are seven points back of the Pirates with 66 points.

“Nothing, but two points is what we wanted to come out of this game with,” said Whitmore.

Manchester scored the first goal as Tom Preissing found the back of the net early in the first period, for his first career AHL point.

Scott Parse fired a shot on Pirates’ goalie Jhonas Enroth, but he couldn’t handle the rebound as Preissing scooped the rebound, lifting it over the Pirates netminder at 2:19 of the first period.

The Pirates were outshot 9-3 in the first 10 minutes of period.

In the second period, the Pirates seized the momentum, scoring three goals in the first 10 minutes of the period.

Manchester’s Brian Boyle was whistled for a tripping penalty, giving the Pirates their only power play goal of the game. They’d make sure to capitalize on it as Colin Murphy sent a blast by Monarchs’ goalie Jonathan Bernier to tied the game at 1-1, just 1:52 into the second period.

At 5:11, Derek Whitmore gave the Pirates their first lead of the game as he redirected the puck by Bernier, after Kyle Rank and Dylan Hunter forced a turnover behind the Monarchs goal.

“We (flipped) the switch in the second period,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “Hunter’s line started that with Rank and Whitmore, they didn’t score on the first shift, but they scored on their second and I think it was a statement to our team that we are going to play. We’re not going to rely on our power play or our “skilled” players.”

“It’s a team effort and it was a well-rounded win.”

Felix Schutz extended the Pirates lead by two goals, 3-1, as he picked up the long ice pass from Mike Kostka for the breakaway.

Schutz deke to the left, sliding the puck between the legs of Bernier at 7:01 of the second period.

Entering the third period, the Pirates were 24-3-0-2 with two of those losses coming with Portland having leads of more than two goals.

It looked like they may fall again as the Monarchs outshot Portland 11-2 in the first half of the third period.

Manchester pulled to within a goal at 3:30 of the third period as a Richard Clune drilled a slap shot by Enroth after Marc-Andre Gragnani turned the puck over deep in his own zone.

The Pirates responded at the 11:26 mark of the period as Murphy scored his second goal of the night, his seventh of the season, finding the open net after Jonathan Bernier turned the puck over to Felix Schutz behind the Monarchs’ goal line, giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead.

That would end the night for Bernier as the Pirates chased him out of the net in favor of Dan Taylor.

The Monarchs tried to press, creating offense, but Mathieu Darche sealed their fate with an empty-net goal at 18:55 of the period.

NOTE: This was the Pirates first win at the Verizon Wireless Arena this season. They had lost all three meeting prior to tonight, while at the Cumberland County Civic Center they were 3-1-0. Jhonas Enroth’s parents (Erik and Eva) are in town for the next 10 days to visit their son. Both were at the game tonight to see Enroth make 39 saves for the win.

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