Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates can’t solve Phantoms

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 1/3/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 1/3/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

PORTLAND – Jason LaBarbera made 37 saves as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms split the weekend series with the Portland Pirates, winning 2-1 Sunday afternoon before 3,100 at the Cross Insurance Arena.

The Pirates (18-13-1-0) saw their five-game winning streak at home come to an end with the team’s first loss on home ice since Dec. 11. During that span, Portland has posted an 11-3-1 record.

“It was certainly a winnable game,” said Pirates’ coach Scott Allen who sustain his first loss as the team’s new head coach. “I didn’t like how we played the first two periods. (Lehigh Valley) played a very strong game defensively, and they forced you to make decisions with the puck. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the right decisions, and we had our backs to the wall.”

Trailing by two goals, the Pirates poured on the offense in the third period throwing 18 shots on LaBarbera.

Only one goal would get by the veteran goaltender that’s played for six NHL teams and six AHL teams in a professional career that began in the 2000-01 season.

Shane Harper cut the Pirates in half, 2-1, with his fifth goal of the season coming just 1:59 into the third period. Harper’s shot from the right faceoff circle beat LaBarbera, giving the Pirates a boost they lacked from the opening two frames.

“We played a very strong third period,” said Allen. “We had our chances. LaBarbera played very well. We should have had that desperation earlier in the game. We can’t wait till we’re down by two to muster that type that of attack.”

Lehigh Valley opened the scoring with a goal from Cole Bardreau as he fired a slap shot from the right circle to open the scoring for the Phantoms with 3:49 to play in the first period.

Lehigh Valley doubled its lead, 2-0, at the 8:27 mark of the second period when Danick Martel picked up a Nick Cousins’ cross-ice feed in the slot and snapped a wrist shot by Pirates’ goaltender Sam Brittain.

Brittain, getting only his second start in the last ten games, finished with 22 saves. Despite going 0-2-0 in both starts, Allen was pleased with Brittain’s performance.

“I thought he played well,” Allen said. “I’m sure he’d want that first goal back, but he made some keys saves at key moments to keep us in the game.”

NOTES: Pirates power play was 0-for-5, but the team’s penalty kill continues to click as they stopped all three Lehigh Valley power play opportunities. Portland hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in their last 28 penalty kills, dating back to Dec. 11, the last loss at home for the Pirates.

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