Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates move a step closer to a playoff berth

The Portland Pirates took another important step toward securing a berth in the Calder Cup playoffs Sunday afternoon with a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before 4,797 at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pennsylvania.

The Pirates (38-25-5-2) received goals from five different players as the Pirates moved into fourth place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with 83 points. The Pirates leapfrogged the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who also have 83 points after they lost 3-1 to the Springfield Falcons, due to holding the tiebreaker for head-to-head wins.

Portland magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now seven points.

“We just feel that if we take care of our own business everything else will take care of itself,” said Pirates coach Scott Allen. “We win our games down the stretch we’ll be fine. If we don’t, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”

The Pirates found themselves down two goals midway through the first period.

Just 1:24 into the game Jake Guentzel tapped a rebound at the left post to take a 1-0 lead.

Dustin Jeffery, acquired from the Springfield Falcons in a trade last month, made it 2-0 for the Penguins as his cross-ice pass deflected off Pirates’ goaltender Sam Brittain into the net at 10:48 of the first period.

“To be completely honest I wasn’t concerned,” said Allen. “I like the way we’ve been playing recently, and I thought if we could stick to our guns and play our game consistently there was a lot of game left.”

Portland would get a power play goal with 2:16 left in the period when Dylan Olsen ripped a slap shot from the left point past Tristan Jarry to cut the lead, 2-1.

Just five minutes into the second period, Connor Brickley, who finished with a goal and two assists, tied the game 2-2 with the Pirates’ second power-play goal of the game as Chase Balisy dished the puck from behind the net to Brickley in the slot for the quick shot by Jarry.

“We knew we had to play a certain way,” said Allen. “We had to make a couple adjustments. We did just that. We followed up (the first power play) goal with another power play goal and for me, that was the difference.”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would retake the lead only 1:41 later on a goal by Jean-Sebastian Dea as he tipped a backhander behind Brittan from the right post, but Portland scored twice more in the period to hold a 4-3 lead after forty minutes of play.

Brett Olson took a cross-ice feed from Rob Flick, snapping a shot by Jarry at 9:16 of the second period for the equalizer.

With 1:30 left in the second period, Logan Shaw, playing his second game with the Pirates since being assigned by the parent club, Florida Panthers, won a foot race with Steve Oleksy and fired a wrist shot from the right hash mark, beating Jarry glove side for the go-ahead goal.

Shane Harper added the insurance goal early into the third period, and Brittain did the rest, stopping all 14 shots he faced in the period. Brittain, getting his first start in nearly a month, made 30 saves for the win.

“It was outstanding for him to get the win,” Allen said of Brittain. “He’s played well for us, but a lot of the games he’s played he hasn’t gotten the goal support. It was a true testament to his teammates stepping up for him today, and him getting the job done after falling behind.”

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