Maine Hockey Journal

Shaw scores twice as Pirates clinch playoff berth

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Hartford Wolf Pack at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/10/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

Portland Pirates regular season contest against the Hartford Wolf Pack at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine on 4/10/2016. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates)

PORTLAND – Logan Shaw scored two goals including the game-winner with under four minutes remaining in the third period for a 3-2 Portland Pirates victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack to clinch a berth in the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs Sunday afternoon before 3,314 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

The Pirates (40-26-5-2) needed a win in regulation against the Wolf Pack (39-31-3-0) to lock up one of two remaining slots in the Eastern Conference after the Providence Bruins also clinched with a win on Sunday. Portland, who is entering the first season as the top affiliate of the Florida Panthers, made only two postseason appearance in four seasons under the Arizona Coyotes’ affiliation.

Portland has three games left in the regular season with their home finale next Friday against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who is still looking to clinch a playoff berth, followed by a pair of games in Springfield, Mass. against the Falcons on Saturday and Sunday. The Pirates still do not know who their opponent will be as of yet. It could be either Hershey, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Toronto or Albany with Portland likely being the lower seed, meaning they would start the best-of-five series on the road.

“You want to get it done as quickly as possible,” said Pirates coach Scott Allen. “You’re not extending it through the week and putting added pressure on the guys. You want the guys to enjoy it. They work extremely hard, and they deserve to enjoy this a little bit.”

Shaw drove toward the net and snapped a shot from the left circle under the crossbar for the go-ahead goal with 3:55 left in the third period.

Shaw has four goals and two assists in his last five games since being assigned to Portland on Apr. 1 by the Panthers. He extended his point streak, which dates back to Nov. 21, to eight games with six goals, three assists for nine points.

“The biggest thing is how the guys make you feel comfortable in the locker room,” said Shaw. “They don’t make you feel out of the place. You don’t feel too high or low coming down. Sure, you lose a little confidence when you don’t play as much (in the NHL), but when you come down here, and you start playing more, making plays and touching the puck it just becomes fun.”

The Pirates trailed 1-0 after the first period.

Adam Tambellini converted a two-on-one rush, snapping a shot by Pirates’ goaltender Sam Britain with 3:03 left in the period.

Hartford controlled much of the first half of the second period, holding the Pirates without a shot on goal for nearly 14 minutes including two power play opportunities.

Portland first shot on goal came with 6:24 left in the period when Shane Harper pulled netminder Magnus Hellberg out of his net as he dove for the puck, but missed allowing Harper to skate around him and stuff it behind him for the equalizer to tie the game, 1-1.

“It was the exactly the type of game that they were going to play,” said Allen. “We fully expected them to play that way. They’ve been an exceptional team over the second half of the season. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We want to take care of business today and dig in and do what we had to do, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Rob Schremp was whistled for hooking, sending the Wolf Pack to their first power play of the game, and a chance to regain momentum but it was Shaw scoring his first goal of the night as picked up bouncing puck in front of the crease and flipping a backhander past Hellberg for the shorthanded goal at 16:15 of the second period.

Mat Bodie responded for Wolf Pack only 26 seconds later to even the game, 2-2, after two periods.

Brittain made 17 saves including several over the final 90 seconds of regulation with Dylan Olsen in the box serving a boarding penalty and Hellberg pulled for an extra attacker, giving Hartford a two-man advantage. The win pushed the Pirates to the forty-win plateau for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they recorded 41 wins under the Coyotes affiliation. Portland has only posted two forty win seasons in the last five years.

“That was a playoff game for us,” said Shaw. “We had to treat it like a playoff game. I’m sure they did as well. That’s how it goes in the playoffs. There are a lot of close games, and it comes down to the last couple of minutes. We battled right to the end.”

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