Maine Hockey Journal

Pirates flat in loss to PBruins

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Providence Bruins at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/9/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Providence Bruins at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/9/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

PORTLAND – The number one team in the American Hockey League on special teams showed exactly why Saturday against the Portland Pirates.

The Providence Bruins tallied a shorthanded goal and power play goal for a 6-1 victory, snapping the Pirates four-game win streak before 4,064 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

The Bruins ranked first in the AHL on the power play (22.5%), went 1-for-1 while the penalty kill, ranked third (86.9%) in the league, kept the Pirates off the board and scored a shorthanded goal to seize momentum midway through the first period.

“The power play has three guys that have the skill,” said Pirates head coach Scott Allen. “Nobody else in the East has three guys with as much skill as those guys have. (Brad) DeFazio isn’t as skilled but is a good bumper and can play in the slot area and complements the other guys.”

Alexander Khokhlchev finished with two goals and two assists while Seth Griffith had a goal and two assists for the Bruins.

Matt Irwin went off to serve a hooking penalty at 11:03 of the first period and only 20 seconds later Ben Sexton beat Pirates’ goalie Mike McKenna on a breakaway for a short-handed goal to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Khokhlchev and Griffith assisted on Brad DeFazio’s power play goal with 4:52 left in the second period to extend Bruins’ back to two-goal, 3-1.

The biggest game changer was special teams,” said Allen. “We go on the power play, and they get a shorthanded goal. We didn’t have another shot the rest of the period. They certainly swung momentum in their favor, and they scored on the power play.”

The Pirates (39-26-5-2) and Bruins finished the regular season series with each team winning seven games. Portland went 7-5-2-0 against the Bruins.

Griffith had made it 2-0 for Providence, converting a three-on-one, firing a wrist shot upstairs under the crossbar from the left circle at 8:27 of the second period.

Logan Shaw scored his second goal and extended his points streak to four games since being assigned to the Pirates by the parent Florida Panthers, tipping Connor Brickley’s shot from the left point past Zane McIntyre just 1:03 after the Bruins’ goal.

Trailing by two goals heading into the final period, Allen felt the game was still within reach.

“Going into the third period, in the last eight periods of hockey against Providence, we have given up one five-on-five goal,” he said. “I still thought it was a winnable game. We talked about that (during the second intermission) about what we needed to do in the last 20 minutes to win the game.”

It was within reach for 1:11 into the third period until Khokhlchev made 4-1 Providence with a booming slap shot from the point.

Ben Youds scored unassisted with a slap shot from the left point at 8:41 of the third period. Khokhlchev added his second goal of the night, getting the rebound from Brian Ferlin’s shot, beating McKenna with a slapper from outside the left circle with 8:52 to play in the third period.

“Third period was just whatever,” Allen said. “I’m happy we’re playing at three o’clock tomorrow. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long to get back at it. We need to see how we’re going to respond.”

McKenna made 27 saves for the Pirates until Sam Brittain entered the game with

The Pirates dropped to fourth place in the Atlantic Division standings with 85 points, but the magic number to clinch a berth in the Calder Cup playoffs remains four points with four games to play in the regular season. Portland, who could have clinched with a win and a regulation loss by the Harford Wolf Pack, will have another chance to clinch Sunday afternoon with an afternoon game against Hartford. The Wolf Pack defeated the Springfield Falcons 6-2 Saturday in their home season finale. Hartford’s final four games are on the road.

“I thought we were flat all day,” Allen said. “It was no excuse. When guys are trying to make it to the best league in the world, they need to find away. We didn’t have enough guys that found a way tonight. We’re a team that needs everybody. We know who we are. We need everyone going. When everyone isn’t going, you’re going to get the results like this.”

NOTES: The AHL announced on Saturday afternoon the 2017 All-Star Classic will be hosted by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The All-Star Classic weekend will take place Jan. 28 through Jan. 30, 2017…. Pirates coach Scott Allen coached his 450th professional game as head coach on Saturday… Prior to the game, the Pirates inducted Trent Whitfield into the Pirates’ Hall of Fame. Whitfield played in 348 games for the Pirates from 1998-2005, scoring 102 goals, 153 assists for 255 points. After a 16 year professional career, Whitfield retired to become the assistant coach of the Pirates during the final season of the Arizona Coyotes affiliation. Whitfield is currently the assistant coach for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

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