HARTFORD, Conn. – Portland Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen always enjoyed hearing “Brass Bonanza,” the Hartford Whalers’ famed theme song, when he was a right wing and the final captain of the NHL team that moved to Carolina in 1997.
But not Wednesday night at the XL Center.
And especially not 36 seconds into overtime when a former Pirates center, Tim Kennedy, patiently held the puck in the right faceoff circle looking for a teammate before firing a 15-foot shot that beat Jhonas Enroth high to the glove side on a four-on-three power play to give the Connecticut Whale a 2-1 victory.
“I’ve seen that shot before,” Dineen said, alluding to Kennedy being on the AHL’s all-rookie team in 2008-09, when he was with the Pirates and led rookies in points (67) and assists (49). “He’s a great hockey player and a great kid, and we think a lot of him. Obviously he’s a big part of their team and played a lot of minutes, maybe 30 minutes.”
But Dineen was upset with the Whale getting six power plays, including a five on three for 52 seconds in the third period, to three for the Pirates.
“I’m (unhappy) with the level of fairness out there but what are you going to do?” Dineen said. “It was a great game, well-played by both teams with lots of back and forth. The nature of the way it played out, it turned into a special teams-type contest. It’s a shame it had to end the way it did.”
The Pirates (18-10-3-1) have lost 4 of 5 and fallen six points behind Atlantic Division-leading Manchester, which routed Adirondack, 6-2. The Whale (16-12-2-5) are on a 10-1-0-2 run that has vaulted them from the division cellar into third, one point behind Portland, which has three games in hand.
The Whale are 7-0-0-2 in their last nine division games and have a point in 14 of their last 15 games (11-1-0-3).
“I thought our guys executed well,” Dineen said. “We lost a player early to a nasty concussion, and that puts your lineup short, but you really have to respect how hard our guys played. I’m really happy with the effort we gave. The fans certainly got their money’s worth with a heck of a hockey game, and they got their win, which is probably the way it was written.”
Dineen would not say who sustained the concussion.
Kennedy admitted getting some satisfaction from beating his former team but wasn’t thinking about shooting until the last moment.
“I’m usually a pass-first, shoot-second guy,” Kennedy said. “First I looked for (Wade Redden), then I looked for (Jeremy Williams), then I looked for (Kris Newbury) and they were all covered, so I kind of tried to shoot high glove. I didn’t have much room with Jhonas. When you practice against a guy for a whole year, you kind of know where to shoot on the net. Not that he has any weakness, but I kind of know where to go. I don’t think he was expecting me to go there. I think he thought I was going to pass.”
The Whale scored at 4:58 of the third when Kelsey Tessier converted the rebound of Ryan McDonagh’s shot from the left point.
But only 1:11 later, the Pirates tied it. Paul Byron took a pass from Colin Stuart and fired in a 35-foot slap shot.