Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates let a crucial game slip away

Portland, ME – If the Portland Pirates want to make the playoffs this season, they will need to find a way to win the winnable games or face the reality of playing golf by the middle of April.

After building a 4-1 lead early in the second period, the Pirates allowed four unanswered goals, including two goals in the final 1:27 of the game as the Hershey Bears came back for a 5-4 win over the Pirates in front of 6,605 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“Good teams find a way to win and we’re not finding a way to win,” said Pirates captain Tyler Bouck. “We make it easy on ourselves to lose by putting ourselves in tough spots.”

“It’s got to stop here unless guys want to go home early.”

Entering the third period, the Pirates held a 4-2 advantage over the Bears, but just 36 seconds into the period, AHL leading scorer Alexandre Giroux scored the first of his two goals on the night with a power play goal.

With 31 seconds left on Mark Mancari’s penalty for elbowing, Giroux fired a slap shot past Pirates’ netminder Jhonas Enroth as the Bears pulled to within a goal.

It remained a one-goal lead for the Pirates until the 18:33 mark when Giroux scored his 49th goal of the season as he worked his way into the slot, lifting a backhand shot under the crossbar to tie the game at 4-4.

Steffan Kronwall secured the win for the Bears with 39 seconds left in the game as he redirected a floating wrist shot by Giroux, past Enroth, taking their first lead of the game since the midway point of the first period.

“It’s mind-boggling,” said Bouck. “It’s very frustrating and I have no answer at this point. It’s a tough, tough loss that’s unbelievable.”

Oskar Osala made it 1-0 for the Bears at 2:15 of the first period, beating Enroth on a wrap around from inside the right post.

At 7:21, the Pirates tied the game, 1-1, as Mark Mancari scored his team-leading 27th goal when he snapped a quick shot on net, deflecting off Steffan Kronwall’s skate past Daren Machesney.

The Pirates took the lead, 2-1, at 13:34 when Marek Zagrapan took advantage of a defensive breakdown by the Bears, picking up the puck from Mancari, sliding it behind Machesney.

Hershey, ranked 29th in the AHL on the penalty kill, gave the Pirates a two-man advantage for 1:39 as Osala was called for hooking at 14:03, followed by Karl Alzner for a delay of game as he shot the puck over the glass a short time later.

Marc-Andre Gragnani took advantage, as the Bears couldn’t clear the zone, blasting a slap shot from the top of the slot, beating Machesney at 15:31 of the first period.

The Pirates made it 4-1 in the second period during a scramble when Felix Schutz sent a backhander by Machesney at 3:42 of the period.

Enroth played well in the period, stopping 17 of 18 shots including a save on Giroux as he tried to lift a backhander from the top of the crease. Later in the period, he also stopped Graham Mink on a breakaway, and rebound attempt, but couldn’t keep the Bears off the board as Kyle Wilson let a quick shot go, beating the Portland netminder on the shortside with 3:18 left in the second period.

“We gave them a little bit of momentum by not getting pucks in deep,” Bouck said. “It comes down to playing intelligent hockey.”

The Pirates for the past two months have been a fragile team. Twice this season, the Pirates have blown a lead in the third period when they’ve held a lead of three goals or more. They lost back on Feb. 4 vs. Worcester, 5-3, and again on Feb. 28 vs. Hartford, 4-3, in a shootout).

“That one way of looking at it,” said Pirates’ head coach Kevin Dineen. “Right now, we just really need to regroup. This is the guys we are going to have until the end of the year and we’re going to have to find a way to get our game straightened out.

“Good, bad or indifferent we have a very short window to get that done.”

NOTES: Dylan Hunter missed his second straight game with an upper body injury with no timeline on his return. Felix Schutz’s goal in the second period extended his points-scoring streak to five games; scoring six points (2g, 4a) during that span.

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