Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates pull out gutsy victory

Springfield, Mass. – Every team needs a gut-check moment during the season to keep grounded.

For the Portland Pirates, this was their gut check moment.

Mark Mancari and Luke Adam each tallied a goal and an assists as the Pirates defeated the Springfield Falcons, 4-2, before a midweek crowd of 2,498 at the MassMutual Center.

The Pirates improved to an AHL league best 23 points with an 11-3-1, seven points ahead of Manchester, their nearest division rival.

At times tonight, the game took a chippy tone, especially in the second period when Pirates forward Maxime Legault was sent off of hitting rookie Matt Calvert. Legault received a five minute major and game misconduct for a check to the head.

However, Pirates coach Kevin Dineen took exception referee’s Jamie Koharski’s view of the play.

“There was some embellishment on their part,” he said. “(Calvert) didn’t miss a shift. It was a pretty cut-and-dry play. It was a game that got out of control and it’s (Koharski’s) job to make sure that it doesn’t.”

The Falcons opened the scoring in the second period on a goal by Ben Guite at the 6:08 mark.

A breakdown by the Pirates led to a two-on-one where Calvert dished the puck to Guite where he snapped a shot into an open net, beating Pirates’ goalie David Leggio.

Springfield had several chances in the first period to get on the board, and to really break the game open. The Pirates were held without a shot until late in the period, and were outshot 8-0, but Leggio made several stops at key moments of the game.

“I thought he settled us down,” said Dineen. He made the saves he really needed to. That was really a difference maker for us.”

“It was the tone of his game. He was in winning mode tonight.”

Momentum for the Pirates began to shift in their direction late in the first period after killing off a five-on-three with 5:17 left in the first period.

With Colin Stuart and Derek Whitmore off, the Falcons had nearly a full two minutes with a two-man advantage.

Leggio made the stops when he needed, and the Pirates responded in the second period, taking a 2-1 lead.

“That’s’ a big moment in the hockey game,” Dineen said. “When you kill something like that off, it starts tilting the ice in your favor.”

“We got thoroughly outplayed in the first 10 minutes, but after that we seemed to right the ship.”

At 7:38 of the second period, just a little over a minute and a half after the Falcons scored, the Pirates were on their own five-on-three power play and Mark Mancari blasted a slap shot from the top of the slot past Falcons’ goalkeeper David LeNeveu to tie the game at 1-1.

Luke Adam scored his league-leading 11th goal of the season at 12:25 of the second period from the left post when he buried a cross-ice pass from Mancari, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.

The last time these two teams met in Springfield, the Pirates held a 2-0 lead before the Falcons scored five times in the third period.

It was in their minds.

“In general, we’ve only lost three games and that’s one that puts a bad taste in our mouth,” said Pirates Corey Tropp. “We just wanted to come back and answer the bell.”

Forward Jacob Lagace benefited from hard work around the crease as he scooped up a rebound and lifted a backhander by LeNeveu for what was eventually the game-winner at 6:29 of the final period.

“Both teams knew what the importance of the two points was,” said Dineen. “That was the main focus. The two points. Again, we’re getting contributions from guys like Jacob Lagace tonight and that makes a big difference.”

With 1:45 left in the game, the Falcons tried a comeback as Tom Sestito wired a shot by Leggio, but Travis Turnbull put the game out of reach with an empty net goal a short time later.

Portland finished the night 1-for-8 on the power play, while killing all five of Springfield’s.

Leggio made 30 saves to improve to 7-0-1 on the season.

NOTES: Dennis Persson did not make the trip to Springfield. He missed practice yesterday and Dineen said today that he’s still a “little dinged up”. They’ll re-evaluate him tomorrow.

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